I watched the GOP presidential primary debate last night and was aghast at the grandiosity put forth as sound ideas for moving the country forward. Now I await President Obama’s State of the Union Address tonight. Such grandiosity only makes a mockery of reality, insults people’s intelligence, and leaves people behind. Something has to give. Last night I wondered just who are these GOP candidates and exactly what office are they running for? I have followed the Republican race closely, and with one or two exceptions, have seen every televised debate. The pattern is clear: the candidates and the debates are only getting increasingly hollow by the day. At times they descend into mindless bomb-throwing, noisy saber-rattling, and adolescent finger-pointing.
Here’s one example. The debate took place in Tampa, FL, and that state is perhaps one of the hardest hit in terms of home foreclosures, houses under-water (where the value of a home is less than what its owners purchased it for), and staggering un- and under-employment. When asked what they would say to people living through this mess, all the candidates could muster were one-liners about reigning in the Federal Reserve Bank in order to have “sound money,” or that we need to “let the market work.”
Then there were the times the candidates talked about the relevance of their past experiences. In listening to one candidate, you’d think he was involved in every major positive policy decision over the last 25 years. Another seemed to claim that as a junior member of the House and then in Senate he was the key driver of every noble piece of legislation that came down the pike. There is another who says that if you are hungry and poor, or if a world crisis faces the U.S., fixing the Federal Reserve is the answer.
And finally one who believes that “creating a 100,000 jobs” in the private sector is the equivalent to turning around a country’s economic crisis. (Right, and did I say that he keeps saying he’s worked in the “real economy” – I ask, can he tell me how I can catch a train to the “fake economy”?)
Each of these points is rooted in a grandiose view of oneself and what the solutions are for real problems in people’s everyday lives.
So, I’d like to say to the candidates: Are you’re telling me that if you were sitting in someone’s living room whom you respect, or whose vote you want, this is the gibberish you’d offer up? I’ll put aside whether I agree or not with a particular proposed policy solution or worldview. What I’m after is some kind of genuine and real response to people’s plight in this country and to challenges in the world.
Oh yeah, here’s another example. The way to fix all the world’s ills is to send troops and bombers and spies into every country that ticks us off. Moreover, even though Presidents Bush and Obama faced resistance to the two current wars we’re in, somehow these candidates could wave a magic wand and people simply would fall in line to follow them. Perhaps they have in mind the old Apple ad based on George Orwell’s 1984, in which mindless people, dressed alike, are all walking in a straight line like robots.
I actually do believe there are many positives coming out of the Republican presidential primary. There is a sharpening of a long-needed debate about the appropriate role of government, federal priorities, and the role of communities and citizens in taking ownership of their futures. I think that’s all for the good.
But this grandiosity is too much. The candidates need to get real with people – and themselves. They need to address real concerns in people’s lives. They need to come at things from the perspective of people, communities, and the wider world. They must stop thinking they can talk and act from within a sanitized vacuum, in which, for convenience sake they negate reality because that’s more convenient to making their arguments.
I’m sick of this stuff, are you?
P.S. If you get the chance, watch the State of the Union tonight and ask yourself is it based in grandiosity, reality, or what?