A couple of folks pinged me today asking my take on last night’s Republican debate. I have to confess that I did not watch it. First, I’m on vacation this week and watching that debate seemed inconsistent with taking a breather from that sort of thing.
Second, last night featured a different contest in the thing I actually care about most right now: girls high-school volleyball, the most exciting sport on the planet, bar none. I will only say that the results in the gym were not what I’d hoped for–from what I picked up in today’s news, my squad performed about as well as Jeb (still, we’re not out by a longshot, and when these ladies sync up, they’re unbeatable–c’mon Titans!!).
I did, I admit, give the transcript a pretty close read. My reaction was predictable, I guess. They all seem on a different planet, though I suspect that’s the same way their supporters would feel reading the transcript from the D’s debate. As this interactive graphic suggests, we really must be drifting further apart from each other.
–Fiorina on 401(k)’s was a “keep the government out of my Medicare” moment.
–Carson appears to have figured out the tax revenue his plan would generate by multiplying his flat rate by GDP.
–Whenever Cruz got a question he didn’t like, he blamed the media.
–Christie rants on about how the US government is going to default on the bonds it holds in the Social Security trust fund, a preposterous assertion.
But what I found most striking was the abject negativity that just dripped from practically every exchange. These folks are haters! They hate and disparage government most of all, though some of them have fed at that trough for awhile now. They hate taxes, Obamacare, Hillary and the “Clinton machine,” government debt, immigrants, regulations, social insurance, the Federal Reserve, the media, and that was pretty much just in the first hour.
I don’t mean to single them out. The D’s rhetoric can get equally negative on banks, bankers, corporations, etc. And there’s of course nothing inherently wrong with negativity. Every campaign differentiates the good guys from the bad guys; it’s a necessary part of signalling and positioning. But I’ve been around this block many times, and my sense is that there was a lot more hard-edged negativity than usual on that stage in Boulder last night.
I can’t say I know what to make of it. Probably their internal polls or just their fingers in the wind reveal that people are pissed off about economic developments like growing inequality, middle-class wage and income stagnation, the persistent absence of full employment, imbalanced trade, the sense that somebody else is getting ahead, that the game’s rigged against them on behalf of others who have attributes they don’t share.
Obviously, many of those issues are fodder for much analysis here at OTE, so I’m sympathetic. But I’m also on vacation, so such analysis will have to wait.