Right after the first Republican debate, Reed Richardson tweeted out that there were six important issues that simply weren’t mentioned: income inequality; minimum wage; climate change; voting rights; parental leave; and mass shootings. Last night, he tweeted again, “So, tonight CNN only got to two — minimum wage & climate change — of these six issues ignored by Fox News.” The context is an interesting one. I didn’t watch the first debate. But I watched last night’s debate, and I was shocked at how much they went on about the same things over and over again.
This morning on The Majority Report, Sam Seder mentioned that if a space alien came down to earth and his introduction was just the Republican debate, it would conclude that the world was on fire. The rhetoric was so extreme — and not just about the Middle East. It was extreme about everything. And I’ve got to wonder how effective it is. I understand that the Fox News and Rush Limbaugh fanatics eat it up. But I think people who aren’t that into politics just see it as bizarre. Things aren’t great, but no one is afraid to get in the car and drive to pick up some ice cream at the super market.
Listening to the Republicans made me think that they are a lot like police officers: always and everywhere very afraid. One of their favorite lines is about how the United States is not respected and not feared. This is meant to be an attack on Obama. But we would have to be a pretty fragile country if one president could destroy our standing in the world. Of course, they don’t care one piece of used chewing gum about how American is perceived in the world, they just want something to complain about because they are running against the current president’s party. But this is all so lame.
There’s also the constant contradiction: America is the greatest nation the world has ever know; and it is terrible, fragile, basically the new Soviet Union. I wrote about this earlier this year, What Is This “America” Conservatives Love? Because it certainly isn’t the aspirational America that I love. It isn’t even the “my country, right or wrong” America. Instead, it is some gauzy notion of “America” that never existed and never could exist. It’s an America where they get everything they want and they don’t have to compromise with anyone else.
But what the Republicans decide to talk about does tell us something. The only reason that minimum wage was brought up was to allow Scott Walker and Ben Carson to argue over it. And even there, Carson hedged. It’s not clear how much he might be willing to raise it. But whatever it is, he wants to then tie it to inflation and never discuss it again. Wages traditionally went up at the rate of productivity growth — not inflation. So Carson’s idea is to effectively make the minimum wage irrelevant within a couple of generations.
The broader issue is that Republicans don’t want to talk about economics because they know that the economy isn’t that bad. And most of all: it is great for the rich, which is the only group that the candidates really care about. So of course they are going to avoid the issue. They only talk about the economy in the same gauzy way they talk about “America.” At the same time that Ben Carson seems to think that keeping up with inflation is good enough for the American worker, the rest of them think raising the worker up is all about increasing productivity — even though we’ve seen rising productivity for the last 40 years without wages going up for most people.
Hillary Clinton put out a great ad mocking the the Republican debate on these issues. It’s well worth watching. And it shows just what the Republican Party has to offer to the average American family: nothing.