Editorial: GOP Debates Prove Fruitless

By Monsignor William J. Linder

Monsignor William J. LinderAs I watched the televised Republican presidential debates, I became increasingly disturbed at the thought of Election Day drawing near.

There really must be stricter qualifications for a candidate to throw his or her hat into the ring for the presidential race.

Here’s what I would propose (and it has nothing to do with showing one’s birth certificate). Presidential candidates should a.) be able to identify what are the vital issues facing Americans today, and b.) articulate a pragmatic plan for how they would address such critical issues.

That’s really what it should come down to.

Instead, American voters have watched a group of GOP presidential hopefuls stoop to a new low as their televised exchange spiraled into utterly ridiculous banter—and signaled a painful avoidance of the real challenges facing today’s society.

Candidates like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were too busy lobbing one-liners, such as when he said, “Mr. Trump, we don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now.” Walker has since pulled out of the race.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that Donald Trump has been a frontrunner in this contest and the sign of desperation that reveals.

If voters wanted to sit back and watch a brawl for entertainment value, they could simply head over to Madison Square Garden. Let me be clear, a presidential debate should be something different.

Where was the relevant discussion about preserving public housing? Or any incisive questioning about super PACs and whether they are, in fact, the enemy of democracy? Where was the substantive debate?

The Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960 remind us of a radically different era. As the first televised presidential debate in the nation’s history, the event made the democratic process even more accessible to any citizen who could watch TV. Both candidates came armed with substantive arguments. The end result, aside from Kennedy’s victory, was that Americans turned out to the polls in record numbers. Today’s GOP debates, in contrast, are fostering a cancer-like cynicism among voters.

Over time, presidential debates have lost much of their practical usefulness, as well as intellectually stimulating luster, but these recent ones have been classic!

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