4th Republican Debate: Does Any Of This Even Matter?

The title may lead one to believe that I’ve been hit by a wave of apathy regarding this election, that I can no longer see the point of covering the endless parade of bullshit, and that my rampant alcohol abuse and bizarre interest in this election have combined into a soul-crushing nightmare devoid of meaning and decency destined to crush me into the dirt.  Some of you are no doubt already nodding your heads, thinking this was inevitable because believing there was ever any meaning to be found here was the first step down a very steep hill and into the ditch that will soon become my grave.  After all, the most recent debate, hosted by Fox Business News and the Wall Street Journal, was a pretty boring affair and it kinda seemed like most media outlets grew tired of covering it immediately after it had finished.  It’s only natural that one would finally give up and admit that there’s no point in reporting on the debate performance of greasy liars and conmen, especially when nothing terribly interesting happened aside from Rand Paul tearing off his shirt to reveal the face of his father, which had been grafted onto his torso as in the custom of his tribe.

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So did I finally realize there’s no point to this?  Nope!  Joke’s on you, asshole!  I never saw a point to this.  I only do this because I can’t help myself and because I’m hoping that if I mention 7-11 often enough they’ll start giving me free coffee.  I am in love with the coffee machine at my local 7-11, which I think technically makes a caffè americano since they use espresso beans.  Regardless, I wake up every morning and watch the squat little black machine piss into a paper cup and it’s the best part of my day. 

No, friends, the title is in reference to a much larger question: does the election matter?  Does it make any difference at all who is elected President of the United States?  We’ll get to the answer, which, spoiler alert, is “yes,” later.  First let’s talk about this goddamn debate. 

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GEEZ, DO WE HAVE TO?

Yes, but relax, we’ll go fast.  The aftermath of last month’s CNBC debate left Fox Business News with no illusions about how the moderation was going to be.  The kid gloves would remain on, there would be no pressure on the candidates to answer with anything approaching honesty, and candidates were encouraged to ignore rational questions, and reality itself, at their leisure.  As a result we ended up with some rather disjointed replies, such as when Carly Fiorina — whom I’ve complimented in the past for her smooth segues — responded to this reasonable inquiry from Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker:

“In seven years under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month. Under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. Under George W. Bush, it was only 13,000 a month. If you win the nomination, you’ll probably be facing a Democrat named Clinton. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?”

I’ve previously noted that the GOP has already written off Bernie Sanders as a potential presidential candidate, but it’s still a pretty good question.  Fiorina’s reply began with a reference to an almost-certainly fictitious middle-aged woman Fiorina had spoken with, who confessed that she goes to bed every night worried for the future of her many children.  Fiorina then said, and I swear to god this is a direct quote, “Yes, problems have gotten much worse under democrats.”

carly fiorina

Wait, what?  You were just told, backed up by pretty convincing stats, that the exact opposite is true.  Well, shit, maybe Fiorina realized that smooth segues aren’t necessary at this stage in the game.  She doesn’t need to make any goddamn sense.  She’s sharing a stage with Ben Carson, after all, who despite being a gifted neurosurgeon is terrible at almost everything else, including speaking and, ironically, considering his career, using his hands.  I don’t know who’s coaching him, but I suspect they eventually gave up and are controlling his hand movements via strings like a marionette that thinks the very solid pyramids were built to store grain.

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Ben Carson.  Holy shit, what a clown.  There are plenty of inconsistencies in his biography, but when given a chance to clear up the discrepancies his answer was — and again, these are his own words — “People who know me know that I’m an honest person.”  If you put a gun to my head and demanded that I think of a more meaningless defense, I’d tell you to go ahead and pull the trigger.  Carson, by the way, has overtaken Trump and is currently leading the polls.

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But I’m not really worried about Ben Carson.  Like Trump, he also doesn’t have a prayer in a general election.  Marco Rubio, on the other hand, might be the only GOP establishment candidate left with a hope of winning, because New Jersey governor and man-ape Chris Christie lost a few points in the polls and had to eat at the kids’ table with the irrelevant Mike Huckabee and Bobby “Wait, Who?” Jindal, and it remains to be seen if he can claw his way back into the big leagues.  Personally, I’ve got faith in him.  I didn’t see the undercard debate because pick-a-reason, but most news outlets are saying that he did pretty well for himself.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him climb back up to the main event; the Great Ape family is known for their impressive upper-body strength. 

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Jeb Bush, though, is still sinking and many are wondering if he can ever get back to the top without the help of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect killing Rubio within the next couple months.  The election is still a year away and a year in politics is a painfully long time, but even so some are ready to write him off.  Before the most recent debate, resident Fox News mummy Charles Krauthammer claimed that, after three dismal debate performances, if Jeb Bush couldn’t get some spark going for himself then he’d be a dead man walking, which I imagine is especially painful to hear coming from an actual member of the living dead like Krauthammer.  Bush, perhaps sensing the stench of grave-dirt spilling from Krauthammer’s mouth, did seem to take the advice to heart and managed a “steady” performance on Tuesday. 

All in all, it was a fairly boring debate in which, according to Rachel Maddow, reality “took a beating”.  Not very notable, really.  Let’s hope the upcoming Democratic debate is a little more exciting, because if it’s medically possible for someone to die of boredom, one more debate like the last one will probably finish me.  I tried to drink myself into getting excited, but there’s not enough alcohol on the planet.  I tried pretending that it was all a reality TV show, but then I remembered that I hate reality shows and anyway CNN is questioning whether or not the GOP reality show is still going

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Oh!  By the way, here is interesting article about how John Kasich speaks English at a fifth-grade level.  The other candidates are rated on there as well.  What fun!

HEY DUMMY, CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE TITLE OF THE ARTICLE NOW?

Yes.  If you’ll recall, the title referenced a question I hear often in internet comment sections.  Well, I say “question,” but it’s always asked rhetorically, so I guess it’s more of a statement in which the commenter calls into question the very idea that it matters at all who the next President of the United States is.  I was hesitant to even address this question because it’s not one that comes up very often and, to be blunt, in the context I typically hear it, it’s usually a stupid goddamn question to ask.    

The Illusion of Free Choice democrats republicans

WAIT, WHAT DO YOU MEAN “USUALLY” 

The best way to answer this not-a-question is by figuring out who’s asking, and on whose behalf they are asking.  If the person asking believes the Illuminati or any other all-powerful cabal of men (or lizard-men, as the case may be) rule the world and things like elections are just pageantry to trick the gullible sheep into thinking that they’re free, then all I can say to them is that you’re not going to believe any of this anyway and also please Neo save us from the Matrix.  I know I’m going to alienate a lot of Disinfo commenters for even questioning the existence of this massive global conspiracy, and I’m okay with that, because in the past a lot those commenters have accused me of being (among other things) a paid government shill, a reptilian, a communist, and, most confusingly, a woman.  I’m not sure how that last one is supposed to function as an insult, but I’d like to note that all of those things are better than who I actually am, which is TV’s Alan Thicke.  Hi, everyone!  Remember Growing Pains?  Wasn’t that a fun show?  Hahaha man, what an asshole Kirk Cameron turned out to be, right? 

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Moving on, this is not to say that I immediately discount conspiracy theories, because — as I’ve written about in the past — there have been several documented conspiracies, some more successful than others, plotted and carried out by the US government.  But if you believe the Illuminati is running the show, then:

A. You’ve misunderstood a great deal about human nature and organization.

And

B. You’ve already stopped listening to me and may as well navigate away from the page.    

Now that that’s over with, let’s imagine a rational person asking if it matters who the next president is.  If that rational person is a Palestinian, then no, it probably doesn’t matter.  The next POTUS will almost certainly maintain the typical US stance on Israel and allow them to continue committing horrible acts of violence against some of the poorest people on the planet, whose primary crime is not drying up and blowing away like dead leaves as per Israel’s wishes.  If the person asking is a poor or even middle-class Afghani or Pakistani, then no, the only difference the identity of the next POTUS will make to your life is the signature on the order for the drone strike that killed you, your goats, and an unrelated wedding party going on next door. 

In fact, the basic structure of foreign policy will remain pretty much the same no matter who the president is.  A pretty bare-boned description is provided for us by George Kennan, head of the State Department policy planning staff in 1948, in the honestly frightening document PPS23:

We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population…. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity…. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction…. We should cease to talk about vague and…, unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

So, yeah.  That’s probably going to remain the status quo for a while. 

THIS IS NOT A GREAT STRATEGY FOR SOMEONE WHO EARLIER SAID “YES, IT DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE”

Bear with me.  So who does it make a difference to, and why?  Well, what you may not realize is that despite the basic goals of US foreign policy remaining the same, the person directing the efforts to attain those goals can make a big difference.  For example, let’s go back to the 2000 election, wherein Al Gore won, but also lost, then tried to win again, before eventually rolling over for George W. Bush and growing a beard.  True story: after he lost, this Grizzly Adams-looking motherfucker came to teach journalism at my first university during my second freshman year. (I had an…unorthodox academic career interrupted several times by mental illness and occasional drug addiction.)  But let’s imagine he had grown a spine and challenged the events, somehow finding a way to become president in the year 2000.  Would he have continued US support of Israel?  Yes.  Would he have been capable of all manner of shady shit, just like his predecessors?  Most likely.  Would he have prevented 9/11?  Probably not.  Would he have invaded Afghanistan afterwards?  Almost certainly.  Would he have invaded Iraq too? 

Uh…no, there’s good reason to believe he would not have invaded Iraq.  Hindsight may be 20/20, but if you look at the people who were responsible for crafting the completely bogus story sold to the US to justify the invasion, they’re mainly people who would not have been around after a Gore victory in 2000.  And since the invasion of Iraq and the complete and utter shit-show that followed is more or less responsible for the creation of ISIS, well, one wonders.

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You could argue that any talk about what-might-have-been is pointless, and I could argue against that on philosophical grounds, but that would lead us away from the topic. (Speaking of philosophy and leading away from the topic…)  The fact is, it matters very much who is doing the diplomatic stuff.  Hell, look at Otto Von Bismark.  He was an asshole, certainly, and started his fair share of wars, but he’s widely credited for juggling an increasingly complicated Europe and keeping it from all falling apart in theretofore unseen amounts of horrible mechanized death.  That is, until he was given the boot by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who promptly proceeded to shit the bed with the lights on.  Christ, there are countless examples throughout history of competent people managing, either by personality or cunning or sheer force of will, to keep this crap-heap of a world chugging along without destroying millions of lives, only to be removed at a critical time with predictable, long-lasting, and awful results. 

To say “it doesn’t matter who’s in charge” is childishly naive, especially if the person saying it lives in a wealthy country, has access to electricity and clean warm water, and is unlikely to be shot at by a religious fundamentalist/enemy soldier.  You know who doesn’t have all of those things?  Well, about 18% of the world doesn’t have access to just one of those things (electricity), so, y’know, go do the math.  And keep in mind which countries are responsible for a lot of the madness happening in the world today, and keep in mind who was responsible for those countries, and see if there’s a direct relation to your relative level of comfort and the horrible things done in the past.  Spoiler: there is, so stop saying “it doesn’t matter who’s in charge” because that basically means “it doesn’t matter because whoever they are, they’ll continue to cater to my country’s need for things like oil and military supremacy, which in turn benefits me.”  

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The problem, as I see it, is that it’s so very comforting to say “it doesn’t matter” because the alternative is to say “it does matter, but I can’t do anything about it,” which is a frighteningly terrible position to find oneself.  It’s horrible to realize that not only is the world totally fucked but you’re also completely powerless to change any of it, so it’s naturally tempting to simply ignore it.  Now I’m not saying that the fact that we’re all powerless to do anything is necessarily true, but it’s certainly something that the US populace has been frequently told during the last fifty years in one manner or another.  I’ll, uh, I’ll just leave these links to a study declaring the US to be an oligarchy rather than a democracy right over here.  Granted, newspapers like a dramatic headline, but it’s enough to get a man in low spirits, you know?  Jesus, what a downer that was.  Here’s an uplifting message from The Oatmeal about helping out your fellow man when things look bleak.  Maybe that’ll make you feel better.  We can’t all lose hope, or else everyone is well and truly fucked.  Disinfo readers may not put much faith in leaders, but I think most of us have heroes, right?  Or at least believe people can do heroic things?  

TunaGhost

TunaGhost

Tuna Ghost lives in Tokyo and has been a contributor to Japan Times and Kansai Scene.Follow him on twitter (@Tuna_Ghost) to read about US politics, the underground Tokyo metal scene, and which brands of 7-11 wine will make you fight like a homeless werewolf prostitute.  
TunaGhost