Why I Won't Watch Another GOP Debate

I have a confession to make: I didn’t watch the GOP debate. In fact, I didn’t even remember it was on. I also haven’t looked up any clips, sought out any coverage, or done any reviews of where the candidates shined or floundered, how they acted, or what they promised. (Though fortunately for us all, Betches Sup newsletter writer Ginny sacrificed her emotional health to watch and report to the debate. Read her summary here.) I, however, am writing about it completely unseen and unheard because you know and I know and everyone on that stage knows that it didn’t matter. None of those fools is going to be president.

For the Republican primary field, the debate stage is just an extended SNL-skit, a dark comedy about the collapse of a political party and the broader system it inhabits. You didn’t have to watch to be sure that every candidate promised some legislative change or executive order that would ignore Congress, violate international law, or trample over at least one constitutional right, if not some combination of the three. Every candidate started from or supported a budget process founded in the fanciful fictions of the innumerate GOP base, ignoring basic accounting realities, basic governing principles, basic decency, and the fact that nobody agrees with them. These debates aren’t showcases for thoughtful policy understanding or parsing out the nuances of varying governing approaches, but a circus of increasingly untethered pledges to transform the presidency into the dictatorship Republican voters crave.

And it’s not a new phenomenon or merely the product of a Trump-dominated party. Back in 2016, when Trump was just one of over a dozen candidates on a stage filled with “serious” people from the “honorable” and “grown-up” Republican Party, the entire stage turned down 10/1 spending cuts to tax increases in one of the most embarrassing displays of fiscal irresponsibility ever produced by a political system. Seven years later, and Trump doesn’t even have to show up for former and current government officials and supposed business leaders to suggest impossibly cruel or cruelly impossible policy with barely a prompt from the moderators.

The hard truth is that Republicans aren’t offering to govern the country, and their debate stage, such as it is, reflects that. They are a party bereft of ideas, of gravitas, of honor for the concept of representative government and of respect for citizens and themselves. They have made a farce out of the democratic process of evaluating and selecting our representatives for high office, and turned all of us into fools in the process. And the more absurd their display becomes, the more humiliated the rest of us are for tolerating it.

So I’m not watching anymore, and I won’t be covering another one. This is merely a display for zombie campaigns to shuffle around until actual voters put them out of their misery. But even if any of these bozos had a chance to sit in the Oval Office and run the nuclear arsenal, it still wouldn’t be worth it. The absurdity of Republican initiatives and their deliberate disregard for popular sovereignty doesn’t deserve the respect of our consideration. 

If they want to lie and dissemble and bloviate and mislead, let them. If they want to propose outrageous solutions to stoke their base instead of offering opportunities to the country at large: sure, why not? The candidates can stand at their podiums, make their speeches, sling their slogans in their echo chamber of mediocrity. For the sake of the show, they all have to pretend that it matters; here in reality, we are not obliged to do the same.

Kaitlin Byrd
Kaitlin Byrd
Knows too much, thinks even more. Has infinite space in her heart for tea and breakfast for dinner. Really from New York, so always ready to cut a bitch.