I watched Mike Huckabee advocate for zero taxes on American producers – a wealthy-favoring proposal that even Donald Trump found too conservative – and portray the country of Iran as “threaten[ing] the entire concept of Western civilization.” I watched Jeb Bush tell me that “all life is a gift from God,” ignoring his support for capital punishment, and validate Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’ homophobia as an expression of her religious liberty. I watched as the Governor of my home state declared, “In [Ohio], we’re doing everything we can to defund Planned Parenthood,” disregarding the thousands of women – and men – in our state who depend on the organization for healthcare. I watched Carly Fiorina, the supposed “winner” of the debate, advocate for an even larger military and vividly, yet oh so inaccurately, describe a scene in one of the disproven anti-Planned Parenthood videos. And, of course, I saw Donald Trump boldly claim that he would “get along with Putin” and “build a wall – a wall that works,” statements whose ludicrousness was matched only by his systematic denigration and objectification of women.
I heard several questions about the Iran deal, which Senator Ted Cruz swore to “rip up on day one”; about immigration, wherein Donald Trump would “figure out” how to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States; and a lot of talk about how each hopeful would exhibit infinitely greater leadership than the current president.
I didn’t hear a single question about poverty, about wage inequality, about racial inequality, or education. I heard no mention of police violence or women’s rights. I did, however, hear far too many irrelevant mentions of Ronald Reagan and the phrases “boots on the ground” and “American values” repeated about fifty times each. Mostly, I heard a lot of noise.
While I watched the second Republican debate, I cracked a lot of jokes, made several snide comments about Donald Trump and Rand Paul’s hair, and mostly enjoyed the entertainment of the spectacle — forgetting that this isn’t a joke. There were hundreds of people sitting in the Reagan library and clapping for the debaters. They shouted and cheered for every xenophobic, homophobic, blatantly incorrect, racist, and simply cruel thing that was said on that stage. They were thrilled about a possible government shutdown over videos heavily edited by an extremist group and inspired by the idea of returning to an America where “we speak English.” And that’s what scares me.
Yes, those eleven people on stage have views that are frightening and backwards, but they would not be publically expressing these sentiments if those in attendance did not want to hear them. Donald Trump would not be increasingly aggressive and antagonistic if people did not find it “refreshing.” That there are apparently millions of people in 2015 America who do not agree that all people deserve the right to marriage and favor the social and physical persecution of Mexican immigrants is what is truly frightening.
Our job, then, is to fight back against the rancor and vitriol. We have the responsibility to start taking the Republican candidates seriously, to rebut their positions with which we take issue, to call them out when they are wrong. We need to stop giving Donald Trump so much unnecessary press. We need to get just as excited as Republicans are about the 2016 election and put our faith in the five people who, in less than a month, will stand on a different stage advocating for a progressive future for America. We, as politically active students, have a unique power to be a part of the political process, to stand up for what we believe in, and to effectively decide who gets to run our country.
This season, the Progressive has a brand new staff of intelligent, passionate, and knowledgeable individuals who will seek, through their writing, to educate, invigorate, and convince readers of what we see as truth. We will do what we can to motivate others in our fight towards a progressive America. All we ask of you is to listen.
Mattie Haag, Editor-In-Chief