Today, Fox News held the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 United States elections. They may be called “debates” but they are nothing of the sort. Instead, you’ll find a forum for uncontested political soundbites. Promotional bits for presidential hopefuls to strut their lexical stuff, pander to politics while ignoring facts, and hopefully coming out on top in the forum of public opinion. We are not Americans. And I am not writing for Americans as I write to you. Yet, the United States’ presidential race is the only election whose outcome will effect the entirety of the globe in a profound manner, and that’ll be displayed on the front page of every daily and weekly worldwide when it occurs. We, the internationals, sit in paralysis, as we watch the great rat race that is the presidential campaigns of 2016.
Yes, these debates are the theatre of politics at its finest. This is not to say there aren’t moments of tremendous honesty during the show. So let me, your humble movie reviewer, parse through the events that transpired.
There is an episode of the British TV Show “Black Mirror” in which a comedian-bear named Waldo runs for political office in the town of Stentonford at the behest of his producers. Waldo is the voice of the frustrated and disenfranchised, a generation untrusting of politics and politicians. Yet, as a political parody, he is the most honest voice of this [fictional] political campaign. Donald Trump serves much the same purpose in the Republican primary. He is the voice of the paranoid id of the American far-right. Instead of a comedic bear, the Republicans chose a billionaire Orangutan (thank you John Oliver). Yet, out of this man came perhaps the most honest comment of the night. “I give to all of them,” Trump said, in reference to his past financial contributions to his fellow Republican candidates. “And when I need something and I call them back after two or three years later. They are there for me. That’s a broken system.” Yes, a billionaire- entrepreneur and the clown of the Republican debates was the only candidate to call out the endemic problem of money in American politics, the institutionalized bribery that is Citizens United and Super-Pacs.
It is beautiful contradictions like this that are the gist of the Republican primary and that make it worth watching. They are a party that advocates a smaller federal government while in the same breath calling for increased military spending. Smaller governments but a bigger NSA. Pro-life and also Pro-execution. But even through this hypocritical bullshit comes more honesty from Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things,” said Huckabee, embodying American foreign policy at its finest.
Speaking of foreign policy, when front-runner Jeb Bush was asked the quintessential “if you knew then what you know now” question about Iraq, he finally had an answer. No, Jeb Bush would not make the same foreign policy faux-pa that his brother made, trying to distance himself as much from his brother’s policy but not from his brother’s logic. “ISIS was created because of the void we left in Iraq” said Bush, while continuing to affirm that “we need to stop the Iran agreement.” Because, apparently somehow ISIS and Iran are tied together. Perhaps, in the same way Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein are also of the same ilk. Americans must really learn the difference between Shia and Sunni muslims. But fear-mongering sells and to Americans Ay-ran is a scary place. This brings me to my last point on Iran: somehow Ben Carson, the Republican’s neurosurgeon candidate, believes that Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. False. (…that was the point of the Iran deal. But Carson’s a neurosurgeon, it’s hard-enough to keep up with innovations in medicine, let alone politics. I’ll forgive him if he promises the first thing he does as president is create mandatory lobotomies.)
The final of most notable moments in this primary came in Mike Huckabee’s closing statement. “It seems like a whole lot of this election has been about a person that is very high in the poles. But doesn’t have a clue about how to govern. A person who has been filled with scandals and that could not lead”—our thoughts turned towards a sheepish looking Trump—“and of course I’m talking about Hilary Clinton.” The crowd jeers and cheers. The moderators let out a hardy laugh. Trump sighs in relief. And I think to myself—the only thing missing from this Republican primary is that Nixon-in-Blue-Drag, Queen Hillary.
The Republican primary, like many countries’ political debates, leaves you wondering whether it’s so sad that it’s funny or so funny that it’s sad. The only difference is that this unsettling commingling of tragedy and farce is not played out on the forgettable meydans of obscure nation-states, but upon a global stage by the greatest country in the world. Hosted, of course, by Fox.
Final Review: Four/Five “A most honest performances by Donald Trump. The absence of a strong female lead should be resolved by the inclusion of Hillary in the sequel.”
By Tekendra Parmar
Follow Tekendra Parmar on Twitter: @TekendraParmar