The Republican presidential candidate debates were combative and entertaining, attracting large crowds on site and millions of viewers on television. This was hardly due to the brilliance and ideas of the candidates who were unimpressive in word and deed.
Is this crop of candidates the best that the Republican Party can present to the nation to lead the world's prime superpower? Should we entrust our country to a retired pizza maker, or a barely literate governor of Texas, or a defeated senator from Pennsylvania. Those aspirants do not remind us of historic GOP leaders, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, as well as the other capable candidates nominated but defeated. Has George W. Bush set a new trend of mediocrity?
There is an alternative pool of very capable Republican leaders now running the nation's biggest institutions; Wall Street managers, business executives, university presidents, bankers, Senators, the 1% who actually run the nation. One would hope that the talented leaders of the US capitalist system would be asked or drafted to rescue the US capitalist government with whom they deal daily.
The debates gave the Republicans a temporary monopoly on communication with the electorate. It was their opportunity to present their agendas to the nation without contradiction – and they went first, opening the competition. Of course, no liberal values were offered by the GOP candidates. They had the opportunity to advocate their basic programs without fear of contradiction: smaller government, drastic debt reduction, cuts in governmental social services, large military budgets, worldwide military bases, lower taxes, less regulation of business, etc.
As the first to present programs, to set the tone and agenda of the conflict, the challenger has large advantages in the national debate. The defender must make special efforts at their own expense, just to get their arguments before the public without dramatic and entertaining debates. The Presidents Bully Pulpit is not likely to be as effective in the battle for public attention.
Going first does not always win arguments. But Obama and the Democrats will need to find a way to entertain, to amuse the electorate just to get them to pay attention. It is hard enough to get them to vote, harder to get their attention and response to the big issues. The Republicans have captured public attention at least temporarily. Now the Democrats need to play catch up to reorganize, reactivate and inspire the coalition that gave them the White House.