So, none of this matters anyway, right?
I generally don’t like to endorse such cynicism, but nothing that happened during the first Republican presidential debate Wednesday night really mattered. None of the candidates who debated are legitimate contenders.
The night was all political theater. When candidates said things like, “As president, I will…” they were just acting. Playing a role. None of these people will ever be president. The best any of them can hope for is that Donald Trump – the clear frontrunner who didn’t even bother to show up – will ask them to be his running mate, or eventually give them a cabinet position should he win.
And so, working with the premise that the whole thing was a big joke, a couple of friends and I decided to have a watch party. It was like the classic pastime of getting some friends together and watching a bad movie on purpose just to laugh at it. We had some wine, heckled the candidates and carried on side conversations when things got boring.
There were lots of entertaining bits. One was when Mike Pence raised his hand with all but one of the other candidates to indicate he would support Trump as the party’s nominee even if Trump was convicted of one of the many crimes of which he’s been accused. What a doormat! I know Ron DeSantis doesn’t want to talk about Jan. 6 anymore, but Pence would certainly do well to be reminded what Trump and his supporters were saying about him that day!
Pence was one of many people who had no business even being on stage Wednesday night. He’s currently polling at 4.3%, according to FiveThirtyEight, and it shows. The crowd, full of Trump-loving Republicans, clearly despised him. Not as much as Chris Christie, though, currently polling at 3.3% – the crowd booed him constantly, doing their best to remind him once again that he will never, ever be their guy.
The clear star of the night was the Republican version of Pete Buttigieg, Vivek Ramaswamy, currently polling at 9.7%, the third highest Republican candidate. Ramaswamy is incredibly charismatic, which is a shame because he’s also irredeemably evil.
A highlight of the night was when, in response to a question from a young person about whether or not Republicans cared about a dear issue for Gen Z – climate change – Ramaswamy boldly said the whole thing was a hoax. This is in line with one of his “10 truths” he posted to social media recently – “Human flourishing requires fossil fuels.” Other “truths” include “There are two genders” and “Reverse racism is racism.”
Now, I have to admit, I found all of this very funny, and I just wish Trump was there, too. It would have been even funnier. I can understand that some may not find such reactionary political positions funny, but one can take comfort in the fact that none of these people will win. The American people don’t like these candidates, nor do they like many of the positions they hold.
This was clearest during the discussion about abortion, in which Nikki Haley, an unelectable loser, clashed with unelectable loser Mike Pence over a federal abortion ban. In a room full of deeply unserious people, Haley was the least unserious. Despite being “unapologetically pro-life,” Haley opposed Pence’s tacit support for a federal abortion ban.
She seems to understand how much abortion has hurt the Republican Party. The backlash to the Dobbs Supreme Court decision has been devastating for the GOP, severely limiting their success in the midterms and after. Anti-abortion Republicans are the reason a sub-50% approval rating Joe Biden could conceivably win reelection.
On the other hand, Trump could also win, probably from a prison cell, Eugene Debs-style. And while his presidency was a lot of laughs, it was also really, really bad. People will suffer if Trump becomes president again. He’s the one we should be taking seriously. As for all these pretenders? Grab some friends, have a drink and laugh at their expense.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a senior studying journalism and political science.