Trump-less GOP Debate Still Missing Moral Principles


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Trump-less GOP Debate Still Missing Moral Principles

By Edward Hudgins

January 29, 2015 -- The Iowa GOP primary debate wasn’t only missing Donald Trump—mercifully. It was also missing a discussion of the fundamental principles of government and the country’s—and Republican Party’s—real underlying moral crisis.

The Donald’s absence from the stage of the January 28 matchup eliminated some of the distraction of his personal attacks on the other candidates, clearing space for more serious discussion. Sadly, the event was much like the ones that went before, part recitation of talking points and stump speech lines, part food fight.

Jeb Bush for choice, Rand Paul vs. tyranny

There were occasional bright spots. Jeb Bush was asked an odd question about a private veteran’s charity accused of wasting money and whether he, as president, would police such charities. Bush rightly highlighted the recent Veterans Administration scandals. He not only said he’d fire those responsible for the incompetence that had led to the deaths of veterans waiting for treatment. He also said he would “give veterans a choice card so that they don't have to travel hours and hours to get care if they want to go to their private provider.” Choice, what an idea!

Rand Paul was asked about whether body cameras for police, especially in places like Ferguson where racial tensions are high, would protect both police and citizens. Paul not surprisingly agreed. But he added that “a third of the budget for the city of Ferguson was being reaped by civil fines. People were just being fined to death. . . . If you're living on the edge of poverty and you get a $100 fine or your car towed, a lot of times you lose your job.” Paul should be congratulated for highlighting the fact that tyranny can be found at all levels, and in many seemingly mundane government practices.

Cruz vs. Rubio: immigration war

The fiercest Republican-on-Republican verbal violence came between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio over immigration. With film clips of their past contradictory statements, the Fox News moderators provoked the fight. But it was instructive to hear the verbal gymnastics as the two GOP Latinos attempted to explain the intricacies of their evolving views on the issue, while they each claimed not to have evolved at all.

Their mano-a-mano also helped explain, for better or worse, part of Trump’s appeal. There are nuances to the immigration issue. If you’re for a more open immigration policy—read Jeb Bush—you still understand the need to deal with millions of illegals who are already here. Both Cruz and Rubio made such tries in the past, but now fight with each other, trying to distance themselves from what should be viewed as past virtues in order to appear as hardcore border hawks. To some viewing this sorry spectacle, hearing Trump unapologetically—and foolishly—declare “deport ‘em all” might seem refreshingly clear.

Chris Christie captured the sentiment of those trying to follow the intricacies of legislative maneuvering when he said, “I watched the video of Senator Cruz. I watched the video of Senator Rubio. I heard what they said. . . . I feel like I need a Washington-to-English dictionary.”

Republicans without principles

Moderator Chris Wallace introduced a segment of the debate promising questions on “the role of the federal government.” That should have been the most important discussion of the evening. It wasn’t. The questions concerned specific policies.

What was missing was a discussion of the fundamental principles defining what government should and should not do... (Read further here.)

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There were occasional bright spots. Jeb Bush was asked an odd question about a private veteran’s charity accused of wasting money and whether he, as president, would police such charities. Bush rightly highlighted the recent Veterans Administration scandals. He not only said he’d fire those responsible for the incompetence that had led to the deaths of veterans waiting for treatment. He also said he would “give veterans a choice card so that they don't have to travel hours and hours to get care if they want to go to their private provider.” Choice, what an idea!

Ed:

You are aware that this is The Donald's position.

Secondly, would you advocate pursuing them criminally if the case can be made to a Federal Grand Jury?

A...

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Ed,

I agree with you that moral principles should be a bigger part of the public discourse. In fact, I think they are with Trump, but I won't belabor that because I know you will disagree with it. :smile:

I want to mention another aspect, though. The audience and the purpose of the debate.

That debate was not staged so one candidate could play one-upmanship with the others. So that the moderators could play gotcha with the candidates and show themselves off. So that candidates could preen and posture. So that candidates could pontificate on the morality of government. Not even so they could show what they looked like without Trump on stage.

The debate happened as a rhetorical event, as persuasion, as a competition at root. Every candidate up there had to convince the audience why voting for him or her was better than voting for any of the others.

That was the purpose. Now for the audience.

It was not there to be educated, to be entertained, to cheer for this candidate or that, or anything else that pundits and others speak about.

It was there to be persuaded.

The only way to persuade anyone is first to get that person's interest. If the person isn't paying attention, there is no way in hell to persuade him or her. And how do you get their interest? You talk about something relevant to that person, for instance, talk about what that person wants.

In political debates, if the audience wants a lecture on civics, they will probably vote for the candidate that gives them a lecture on civics. If the audience is looking for something else like common sense, the candidate who gives them that will get their vote. If the audience wants a pretty face, the ugly one will not win. And, I claim, a candidate who ignores this is committing professional malpractice. Or professional suicide.

So, for freedom-loving philosophy folks, the trick is not simply to bemoan the immorality or amorality of the candidates and stand by helplessly as one more election unfolds in a big-government nanny-state direction (or war and nation-building). It's to try to figure out what the people want deep down in their souls at this point in time, find a way to give it to them in the most impactful and entertaining manner possible, and pepper in the political philosophy on top of that.

Why?

Simple. To get their votes.

The philosophy would be to give them a preview of later and establish expectations, but it is not the persuasive motor. What people want is the pathway to their hearts and minds.

Trump knows this and does it. Agree with him or not, that's what he does. The others are the others and prefer standard stump speeches, gotchas, attacks on each other without entertainment, phoney-baloney smiles, even lessons on civics at time, and so on.

Boring...

Guess who's winning?

:smile:

Later, for those who think this lesson is trivial, does not reflect the real reality, and so on, let's see how the the election turns out. I predict the results will be the 2x4 upside the head didactic technique. And even then, it will only sink in for those whose denial is not thicker in their skulls than the wood.

:smile:

Michael

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Later, for those who think this lesson is trivial, does not reflect the real reality, and so on, let's see how the the election turns out. I predict the results will be the 2x4 upside the head didactic technique. And even then, it will only sink in for those whose denial is not thicker in their skulls than the wood.

I want to add a thought to this.

Even Ayn Rand knew this lesson on a deep level. That's one of the reasons she couched her philosophical ideas in novels at first. (The other reason? She was a fiction writer. :smile: )

People want suspense, mystery, sex, thrills, stories of love and betrayal, fear and struggle and triumph, in other words, an emotional roller coaster.

She gave them one hell of a ride, two big times. The philosophy was embedded.

Frankly, if she had not written her two major novels, I believe all her nonfiction (and her other fiction) would have made her a footnote in American culture. Outside of the two heavyweights, the most successful thing she ever had going was The Night of January 16th.

Michael

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Did Trump's no show at the debates cost him Iowa?

Peter,

Very likely.

Arrrrrrggg...

:smile:

Michael

Hard to prove.

It certainly was a factor, however not the only one.

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Michael – Thanks for your thoughts!

Debate candidates indeed are in a rhetorical event and attempting to persuade audience members, some members who are honestly seeking to discover who best fits their beliefs, others who already have their minds made up and simply want to have their beliefs reaffirmed and cheer for their guy.

I suggest that if candidates held beliefs similar to ours, they could use their rhetorical skills along the lines I suggest in my Republican Party Civil War book to seize the moral high ground. They could interlace with the answers these and similar points:

1) It’s your life! You should make of it what you want. You don’t need to justify yourself to government, society, your neighbors or anyone. That’s what it means to have a right to “life.”

2) We owe each other respect, not goods and services.

3) We’re responsible adults, so let’s refuse to be treated like helpless children. Aren’t you insulted by paternalist politicians who think you’re too stupid to run your own life, to wipe your nose or tie your shoes?

4) Take pride in your productive achievements. You’re a creator, whether you nurture a child to maturity or business to profitability; whether you write a song, poem, business plan or dissertation; whether you lay the brinks to a building, design it, or arrange for its financing. Treat government creeps who want to mess with your creations, the children of the best within you, the way you’d treat anyone who would mess with your real children. Tell ‘em if they lay a hand on your children you’ll tear their frigging heart out!

5) Don’t let yourself be guilt-tripped into sanctioning your would-be destroyers. Tell ‘em to go to hell!

6) Fight for a society based on a harmony of interests rather than surrender to one based on conflict and force.

If candidates used this kind of moral rhetoric, they would dominate the debate, get their message across loud and clear, and leave their statist opponents stuttering, pathetic, incoherent messes!

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Afternoon Ed. You have been served.

Ed wrote: . . . you’ll tear their frigging heat out!
end quote

Was that a mis-spelling or a new way of saying they would be deceased? I know. That was a line from the novel and movie, “The Martian.”

Matt Damon: Greetings earthlings. I am back at my diary after fixing the oxygenator and the heater. Even with my warmth reflecting suit on, this Martian cold would tear my frigging heat out.”
Peter

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