Lessons of the GOP Debates

So there have been three GOP debates in recent memory. You want to know who won them? In each case, the crowd did.

I'm kind of amused by this whole audience thing at a debate. I mean, it's not like you're going to find Democrats at a Republican primary debate, probably excepting members of the press who have to try for a facade of neutrality. So what we've got here is a crowd made up of the Republican base, eagerly hoping to see their favorite candidates in action.

But even those candidates don't seem to be interested in going as far as the crowd has. We see the crowd at one debate cheering wildly for the 234 executions in Texas; a few calls of "Yeah!" from another when asked if society should let someone without insurance die; boos and jeers out of the last when an active-duty soldier in Iraq asked if Santorum wanted to reverse the progress that let him serve openly as a gay man. It's frightening, to say the least!

Unfortunately for the Republicans, it's also very instructive. This is the party that they're going to try to win an election with. This is the base that somehow has to be encouraged to go out and vote. A base that cheers at the idea of death, encourages that society let people die, and actively and openly condemn a soldier serving his country solely on the basis of his sexual orientation.

That's the other thing that these debates have been demonstrating. That to get the conservative base's favor, they have to take positions that are wildly to the right. I look forward to seeing who emerges from the primaries as the victor... and whether the positions that they had to take to claim that victory will be able to carry them through the general election as well.

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