I felt a terrible gut-wrenching pain while watching the Fox News Republican Presidential Debate after being away from American conservative extremism for the past year and two months. That feeling returned the next morning while I was listening to New Zealand public radio on my tractor run. Radio NZ’s short coverage consisted of one outrageous Donald Trump quote. He said moderator Megyn Kelly, “had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
This is the one small piece of American news many people across the world heard today. How sad is that?
It’s not surprising though. The first Republican debate is always a race to the bottom to see who is best at pandering to their conservative base. All 10 candidates came in with carefully crafted one-liners intended to garner the most tweets and shares and likes. It’s a popularity contest. It’s the result of the dumbing down of journalism and online media. Click bait. You’ll never believe what Donald Trump just said. It’s not about the truth anymore, it’s about getting the most page views. It’s all fake. America.
The first debate is always moderated by Fox News, and all of the candidates are chosen by Fox News. They set the agenda. If you aren’t a Christian and don’t believe in God, then don’t even try running as a Republican. These candidates are expected to fit into a tiny box created by Fox News, the Republican Party and the Christian Right. They are all one and the same. The holy trinity.
The status quo of the debate scares me. The way the words “terrorist” and “freedom” and thrown around like they actually mean something. The complete rejection of abortion in all cases. The way God and religion are completely intertwined in a country where separation of church and state is the law.
I’ve studied the Christian Right and I wrote my senior thesis about their education policy. It all stems from biblical inerency, that the Bible is completely without error and contains all answers to life’s complexities. Everything is black and white. They are simplistic and can’t comprehend that, hey, maybe if a pregnant woman’s life is in danger, or if a young girl was raped or a victim of incest, maybe it would be OK if she had an abortion.
Nope. Not to Fox News.
The Republican status quo on abortion is that life starts at the exact moment when the sperm fertilizes the egg. From that point, the tiny fetus is an American citizen with all of the protections of the constitution. If you are a gay fetus, however, just stay in the womb. You have more rights there.
Megyn Kelly turns to Marco Rubio and says he has favored rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans. She asks, “If you believe that life begins at conception, as you say you do, how do you justify ending a life just because it begins violently, through no fault of the baby?”
RUBIO: Well, Megyn, first of all, I’m not sure that that’s a correct assessment of my record. I would go on to add that I believe all–
KELLY: You don’t favor a rape and incest exception?
RUBIO: I have never said that. And I have never advocated that. What I have advocated is that we pass law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection.
In fact, I think that law already exists. It is called the Constitution of the United States.
RUBIO: And let me go further. I believe that every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws, whether they can vote or not. Whether they can speak or not. Whether they can hire a lawyer or not. Whether they have a birth certificate or not. And I think future generations will look back at this history of our country and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave them a chance to live.
Great job, Rubio, if you want a crowd reaction just namedrop the constitution. No matter what position he has taken in the past, he has to say he was never in favor of any abortion exceptions if he wants to remain in the competition. All of these candidates have to pander to their conservative base and double down on the extremism. But as soon as one of them wins the bid, they turn into a different candidate so they can gather a wider audience.
“Alright, gentlemen,” says moderator Kelly. “We’re gonna switch topics now and talk a bit about terror and national security.”
Chris Christie says the NSA should be able to run bulk collection of Americans’ home phone records, while Rand Paul says we should only collect information from terrorists.
CHRISTIE: And — and, Megyn? Megyn, that’s a — that, you know, that’s a completely ridiculous answer. “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.” How are you supposed to know, Megyn?
PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!
CHRISTIE: What are you supposed to…
PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!
CHRISTIE: …how are you supposed to — no, I’ll tell you how you, look…
PAUL: Get a warrant!
CHRISTIE: Let me tell you something, you go…
PAUL: Get a judge to sign the warrant!
CHRISTIE: When you — you know, senator…
They skate to center ice and throw a few punches before the referees break it up.
The word “terrorist” bothers me. There are definitely terrible people in the world who are committing terrible acts of torture and violence. But there is a serious problem with using the word so casually and frequently. It’s a great strategy, though, if the intention is to keep Americans afraid of a straw man and let their rights slowly be dismantled.
Think of it from all perspectives. If a strong global power illegally invades countries and kills an estimated 210,000 civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, who is the terrorist? It can’t be the Americans, because we are fighting a war on terror, so we are incapable of committing any acts of terrorism.
Americans are extremely self-centered. We are the best country in the world and we are the global police force and it is totally justified to have military personnel in 130 countries and over 900 overseas bases. If we have an ideological (read: economic) difference with a country, we need to invade to protect our diplomatic (read: monetary) interests.
The system is genius. Everything is so well-thought out and the propaganda is so subtly-incorporated into society. The goal is to keep a large class of misinformed, uneducated, poor workers who are passive consumers of media and merchandise on the bottom and a rich, powerful ruling class on top. It’s all good though because this is America, where even if your father was a mailman or a bartender — as Kasich and Rubio were so eager to share — you can still be a presidential candidate. This is America, where there is less social mobility than Canada and Western Europe, I mean, wait… What happened to the American dream? Oh yeah, Reagan killed it with deregulation and lowering taxes on the rich.
The joining of the Republican Party and evangelical churches streamlined this system and changed American politics forever. Now, everyone in the Republican Party is assumed to be a devout Christian.
This makes me feel so helplessly sad. That there are actually people, lots of them, who think like this. My gut reaction is to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and make them travel the world and try to talk like that in any other country in the world and see what happens.
Carol Fox brings up the same self-centered worldview I mentioned earlier. White, heterosexual, God-fearing, Bible-thumping, gun-owning Americans are the most important people in the world. We shouldn’t worry about the possibility of gay people being “prosecuted” and discriminated against, we should be worrying about the Real Americans who don’t like these faggots being allowed to have the same rights that I enjoy. I mean, for heaven’s sake, how am I supposed to explain two men kissing to my five-year-old daughter?
Watching the Fox News debate at a time when the only other American media I have recently consumed is the new season of Rick and Morty is like only watching Damo and Darren videos to understand contemporary social issues of Australia. I can’t imagine a politician from New Zealand saying Scott Walker’s quote: “I’m certainly an imperfect man. And it’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed from my sins.” I know this debate is extreme and it doesn’t accurately characterize what America is all about.
I actually have a lot of hope for America. Future generations won’t look at us as baby killing barbarians as Rubio predicts. They will wonder why we didn’t legalize gay marriage and allow women to have control over their bodies earlier.
Historians are going to look back on the Obama years as a transformative time for America. He will be remembered as one of the best Presidents of modern history. He is the first African-American president, elected a short 50 years after the Civil Rights movement. He passed comprehensive health care reform resulting in millions of Americans having access to affordable health insurance. He ended one inherited war and scaled down another. Gay marriage was legalized under his term. Recreational marijuana was passed in three states.
America is changing and it is only going to get better. We are becoming more diverse and our national skin color is getting darker. We are changing our minds on social issues and economic justice is becoming an issue that cannot be avoided. It doesn’t matter what Donald Trump said today. What matters is how he will be remembered: as a gigantic asshole.