Anyone who watched the Republican candidates’ debate should have come away understanding why Donald Trump is beating all of them in the polls. It’s not because he’s the craziest of the group or says the craziest things. Let’s be real, in this group that designation will be hard fought for many months to come. No, the reason Donald Trump is so high in the polls is because he is not boring while the other candidates make my brain explode with boredom.
I used to be in a high school debate club. I remember that you were expected to answer the question asked. This is something that most candidates for public office simply choose to ignore. And I am not letting the Democrats off the hook on this one either. They are no better. Because no matter what question is asked, be they Democrats or Republicans, their answer will often have absolutely nothing to do with the question.
Instead, most candidates have been told by their handlers to stay on message and stick to their talking points no matter what. Most especially, they’re warned to not be drawn into any shouting matches with their opponents because they might accidentally say something real and get in trouble. Given that the ancient definition of a debate was to have opposing sides argue for their point of view, going into a debate with the advice to NOT get into an argument with your opponent would seem to defeat the idea before you’ve even engaged.
So ask a question during the debate and the candidates will, within three sentences at most, turn it back towards a talking point they’ve had prepared for years. They will simply parrot back that talking point whether it has any relevance to the question asked or not.
Donald Trump doesn’t offer talking points in a debate because, quite frankly, he has no talking points or actual positions on most of the important issues of our time. He wings it in much the same way as he’s winging this campaign and his financial empire. He does or says what feels good to him and lets the chips fall where they may. This confuses the well-prepped candidates who have long ago forgotten how to be spontaneous, who only know how to respond in a calculated manner that has been tested in front focus groups.
Trump gets your attention because you never know what he’s going to say next and, once he’s said it, you find yourself sitting in stunned silence at what he actually said. He then keeps our attention by refusing to back down from whatever sexist, racist, idiotic statement he made. Trump not only doesn’t back down, he usually doubles down and makes it even more outrageous. Even those once considered the crazier end of the current crop of Republican candidates cannot out-crazy Trump because none of them have the nerve to not only make a spontaneous declaration but also then stick by it.
So Trump gets all the attention because he is currently the best show in town. Does anyone truly believe another set of Congressional hearings on Benghazi is in anyway capable of attracting people away from the latest Trumpism?
Hillary Clinton comes across as an automaton, totally programed from smile to speech. Her Democratic opponents are so unknown they don’t even get mentioned as candidates. Bernie Sanders is the only colorful candidate on the left and the only one who might make a Democratic debate less of a snooze fest. But I’m guessing they won’t let him play at the big boys table when the Democrats have their debates. And I’m guessing the other candidates are only in the race to give Hillary someone to oppose during a debate, because even Hillary would look silly debating herself.
American politics have become so packaged and sanitized that a doofus like Trump, who should scare any reasonable person at the idea of him as president, easily rises to the top of the pile. He brings reality to the canned sound bites that we’ve come to accept as a debate in our modern times. He says what he’s thinking and, no matter how stupid, racist or sexist that might be, it’s still better than the programmed responses from the other indistinguishable candidates.
When Trump is what’s saving us from completely losing interest in national politics, we are in serious trouble.