Going into tonight’s debate, it is important to understand the context of the debate. That context is a country ruined by eight years of Republican governance, culminating in a crashed economy, an economic crisis that embraced the entire world, and two ongoing wars in the Middle East. A country that is, thanks to a GOP refusal to govern, even after almost seven years of effort, not yet fully recovered.
The context will be one of LIES. Lots and lots of lies. John Fugelsang tweeted two days ago about just how bad it will be:
The fact checker for Thursday's #GOPDebate has already started drinking.
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) August 5, 2015
Since 2008, President Obama has worked tirelessly to restore some semblance of order out of the chaos of the Bush years. He has ended both wars, and brought most of our troops home. He has restored our economy (including our credit rating), reduced unemployment, restored America’s reputation overseas, given healthcare 17 million Americans who did not have it before, embraced marriage equality, and championed a living wage for workers.
The list goes on. Those are just the highlights. And all these were accomplished against every sort of Republican obstruction imaginable.
What we hear from Republican candidates is a story completely at odds with this reality. We here about an America that apparently was never victimized by the Bush administration. Instead, America has been run into the ground by the Democrats.
Certainly, there is more work to do, as Obama acknowledges. But you wonder how much better things would be if the Republicans had not obstructed every idea Obama has had since 2008. The truth is, to the extent there is anything left to complain about, it is the fault of the GOP.
So the context is neatly captured in this tweet to Donald Trump, by an admiring, Fox News-duped ignoramus, and retweeted by Trump, who claims never to lie, as the truth:
"@Shelia1965A: God Bless You Donald Trump. I am so glad you decided to run. The Democrats have run this Country into the ground."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2015
If the premise is false, well…you know pretty much all you need to know about the arguments built from it.
Yes. The America the Republican candidates will be talking about tonight is a phantasm. It doesn’t exist. It hasn’t existed since 2008. And everything they say about it will be a lie. Because fantasy is fiction, the context of tonight’s debate is a fictional America.
Trump says he wants to “make America great again.” But gone unsaid is that he wants to accomplish that goal using the same policies that nearly destroyed America in the first place.
In fact, in order to set himself apart from what he calls the “Establishment” candidates (everybody except Trump, and including Hillary Clinton) and create an “otherness” about them, Trump insists he will bring a fresh approach to our problems:
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. — Albert Einstein
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2015
That’s exactly what Obama said in 2008. The Republicans drove the car into the ditch. We will be damned if we give them the keys to try to get us out again.
Trump, however, is using the exact same thinking as before. While he was’t one of the Republicans who drove that car into the ditch in 2008, his thinking varies very little from that of his fellow Republicans. It is disingenuous of him at the very least, to claim to be bringing new thinking to the table.
It isn’t new thinking. He is just louder and more obnoxious. Bluster substitutes for content. His narrative is just as empty as the narratives of the men he claims are idiots. All of them are operating from a false premise. A rebellion against authority? You can’t revolution without change. It isn’t possible.
The Trump revolution isn’t revolution. It is a conservative counter-revolution. A counter-revolution to re-establish the status quo. To make America safe for the rich.
The only real difference is that Trump uses insults more. He calls names. There’s your anti-Establishment.
However, it takes more than a big personality to be a successful president. You do actually have to have some ideas. And if you are not cognizant of the facts of our shared reality – that is, reality’s well known “liberal bias” – you will not get far.
Because as Bush found out, what you don’t know can hurt you. It will wreck you. Cognitive dissonance may have saved Republicans from this painful lesson, but it was well-learned by the rest of us, and by the world.
Republicans love to invent new realities more amenable to their fact-starved ideology, and that is what they will be doing tonight on Fox News while they attack an America that no longer exists. Essentially, what tonight’s debate will decide is not who is right and who is wrong, but who has a better set of lies – and who can tell those lies more convincingly.
The truth is somewhere out there. But it won’t be at the #GOPDebate.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.