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The 2016 GOP Primaries: Debate One

A look at the first debate and the general shape of the 2016 GOP field.

Now that we’re somewhat familiar with the major candidates, it’d be nice to look at where the race stands. But some background is needed, at least for the GOP side of things.

The Republican voters of 2012 had a hard time making a pick. They apparently did not feel any great connection to any of the candidates. They were shopping, trying each one on. Finding a bad fit, finding it clashed with their values, they went to the next. Eventually, they went with the least ill-fitting, Mitt Romney.

2016 looks largely to be a retreading of that same ground. Trump has an early lead, mainly because he’s such a known brand. Trump has been around for a long time, outside of politics. He’s a fixture of America. That seems to many to mean he counts for more in a race among people with much less recognition. He certainly doesn’t seem much crazier than the average candidate in the race at the moment.

What’s more, his positions don’t apparently diverge so much from any of the other candidates. His tone does, though. He’s running as an anti-candidate. An outsider insider. The fact that he has had business success speaks to people that here is a man who, right or wrong, consistent or not, has gotten things done before.

Of the other candidates, Jeb Bush is favored. He’s the establishment pick, like Romney was. Barring either Trump or a dramatic shift by another candidate, Bush will likely get the nomination, just like Romney did. The voters will try each of the others in the Whitman’s Sampler and go with the plain chocolate with the dollar sign stamped on it.

The rest of the candidates, mostly, are middling. Some are more establishment, like Kasich. Others are more Tea Party, like Cruz. Others more hawk, Graham. But none stand out as the best mix of nougat, chocolate, nuts, and caramel.

The first debates

A few days ago the first debates happened. They were split into the top ten and the bottom seven. The popular wisdom had Trump winning the big table and Fiorina the small.

Trump did stave off any acute attack on his candidacy, not even losing points for being the sole candidate to refuse to pledge to support the GOP ticket no matter what. It’s not clear that he won, per se, as the moderators seemed to approach each candidate on a case-by-case basis for about half their questions. Trump’s personalized questions were of a different sort than those posed to other candidates, more about his personality than his record (though they did ask him about bankruptcies).

Trump seemed to score points by not melting like the Western Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. And that, to my eyes, was also why Fiorina won the small table. There were no particular standouts down below, and the fact that Fiorina did okay seems to garner her a win as another outsider businessperson.

It will be awhile before the next polls show whether the debate changed anything. It’s likely there will be a bit of shuffling in the lower ranks, without much change among the leaders. The next debate is over a month away, and will again be a big table, little table split debate. We should see a different mixture in each by then, which may begin to show a longer trend of where the field is heading.

The Political Now

Today I started to outline some of the problems I have with the so-called GOP (hereafter RP). As I did so, I was also interested in highlighting the opposition’s problems (hereafter DP). Then I decided, on reflection, that it would be a criticism of both parties. But that still failed to emphasize the solutions. So this is now less of a pure criticism and more about providing the alternative too.

Today I started to outline some of the problems I have with the so-called GOP (hereafter RP).  As I did so, I was also interested in highlighting the opposition’s problems (hereafter DP).  Then I decided, on reflection, that it would be a criticism of both parties.  But that still failed to emphasize the solutions.  So this is now less of a pure criticism and more about providing the alternative too.


The RP position is that taxation is a form of theft.  They do not see it as funding the scaffolding of society and fail to recognize the role that the government plays in their own personal success.  Taxes should be minimal, as should the size of government.  The DP position is that taxes are there to provide for the minority cases of poverty and illness, and taxes should be expanded to fulfill those needs and others we deem necessary.

My position is that taxes should be seen as an investment in our collective future, and that our government’s parameters should be targeted to the development of our social fabric.  That means I favor taxes for things like scientific development and open source software, anything which can be leveraged by the private sector to improve work there, and anything that can be leveraged by private citizens to improve their day-to-day.


For both the DP and RP, justice is mostly a matter of punishing the individuals that break the law.  The outlook on the law differs slightly for both.  Treatment of convicted individuals is slightly harsher for the RP, while the DP tends to give a bit more recognition to the role that economics plays in crime, but the general outlook is identical.

My position is that the vast majority of crime has economic origins, and the proper development of society requires economic intervention in the forms of education and rehabilitation.

I also maintain that key reforms in the justice system are needed, including overhauling the current advocacy system of courts and the manner of interactions between law enforcement and private citizens.  These are things the RP and DP both ignore completely.

Gun Control

Long a contentious issue, the RP believes gun rights are untouchable while the DP believes that the state should have the right to restrict weapon access as much as it pleases.

My position is that guns don’t kill people, but people with guns do.  Proper stitching of the social and economic fabric eliminates the motivations for gun control, though it probably does tend to diminish the ownership, it does not urge people to disarm.

Foreign Policy

The RP position favors military intervention, while the DP position is slightly warmer toward diplomatic solutions.

My own position is that, again, economic development precludes the need to intervene militarily and minimizes the need for diplomatic intervention.  The use of foreign aid as a carrot to complement the military stick is fraught with peril, for it avoids the real, needed economic development of the areas being targeted for improved governance.

The Trend

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a trend here.  The RP position is usually one based on the idea that the individual is an island capable of behaving properly ex nihilo.  The DP position is that people need some help and are products of their environment up to the point where they are bad enough to be beyond redemption, at which point their position diminishes into the RP position.

And my position is that people are basically machines that could be functional provided the correct environmental factors (usually economic in nature).

You can extrapolate the positions from the above for welfare, immigration, corporate regulation, etc.