I watched bits and pieces of the yesterday’s Republican debate marathon online yesterday via CNN’s special livestream feed. Rather than give you my reactions, I thought I’d leave it to the pros and I thought Jeb Lund’s recapitulation, titled 5.5 Hours of Surreal Insanity, summed it up pretty well.
Ordinarily, length should be a luxury, something we welcome. Most of us are, by dint of having lives, addictions or internet pornography, lower-information voters than our best selves would be in a better universe, where we go to the gym every morning, drink less and get out of the house to support our local sex workers. Three hours of debate should tell us more than two.
But this is modern politics, unfortunately, and more specifically the Republican Party, which is less a debating society and more a traveling society of ritual incantation. You know what these people believe and what they will say: war, crime, tax cuts, slash social programs, something nice about Jesus, a repeatedly shoehorned anecdote about a great-grandfather who abandoned a life of competitive bog-eating in County Meath to be horsewhipped around a track by one of John D. Rockefeller’s bastards in his Irishman Steeplechase. The only question is in what order this cut-and-paste junk appears, and whether someone knocks over a binder full of women or forgets which federal social services department goes on the Kill List next to the more memorable ayatollahs.
After trying his best to summarize what the various candidates said at various times, Lund throws in the towel.
At some point, the night blurred. It’s probably impossible to glean all the information presented over a three-hour verbal forced march like this, but then again, most people probably don’t try. If you’re a Republican voter, you probably go in with one candidate you really like and a couple more you are curious about, then mentally filter for their comments or topics of particular interest to you. If you’re not writing this down, if none of it needs to be used for a future argument, the information gets triaged, the vibrant stuff taken home to be nurtured, the borderline cases treated with care, the terminal ideas shipped down to the tile room in the basement. It’s the only way to handle this much intake.
But if you’re committed to assimilating the whole thing, you’re going to get loopy. Even if it’s nonsense, talking points reiterated ad nauseam and unbounded by data, it’s still too much input. Your mind wanders to the fact that they’re standing in front of a goddamn airplane.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders’s Twitter account was busy during the debate, calling out all the nonsense that was spoken during the debate and all the things that were left unsaid. He followed with comments in a TV interview where he pointed out in blistering detail what was wrong with the things that were said at the debate.