Can we take any of the Republican candidates for president (potential or declared) seriously?
Report after report of their activities in pivotal states across the country indicate the consistent theme among GOP contenders isn't any huge policy shifts or breakthrough ideas, but rather, a fixation on Hillary Clinton, the current front-runner for the Democratic Party.
This isn't inherently terrible.
Discussion about the presumed nominee for the oppositional party is certainly fine. But, the GOP candidates take it to a whole other level.
It is an obsession, not a discussion, and the potential nominees do their party no favors by presenting themselves as the most “anti-Hillary” candidate available.
The 2016 presidential election is going to be important for a myriad of reasons, including:
1. Four of the nine sitting Justices of the Supreme Court will be over the age of 78 by the time the next president is inaugurated, which means those four seats could be vacated over the next four to eight years.
2. Women’s rights, including workplace equality and reproductive rights, will continue to dominate the discussion. Equal pay for equal work will take center stage, as well.
3. The topic of raising the minimum wage will undoubtedly be discussed, as will many other workers’ — and consumers’ — debates. Should collective bargaining rights remain intact? Can owners deny customers the right to patronize their businesses based on religious differences?
4. Foreign policy will also attract the attention of the electorate. What are the candidates’ stances on dealing with ISIS and other organizations gaining footholds across the globe? What is the role of free trade agreements? And what is the best method for negotiating with nations like Iran when it comes to nuclear material?
This is just a handful of issues that will pique the interests of voters. We deserve to have an open debate on each of these, and more.
But, it doesn't seem like that debate will be possible because of the Right's fixation on Clinton.
Take a gander at what Republican contenders are saying about her:
“I think it's something out of the North Korean playbook,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), discussing how Clinton is the only top-tier candidate for president in the Democratic Party.
He continued his warped comparison of Clinton as a “dictator” saying,
“I mean at the end of the day, the dear leader — Kim Jong-un — everybody he meets likes him.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) didn't have kind words for Clinton, either:
“I think that her dereliction of duty, her not doing her job, her not providing security for our forces, for our diplomats, should forever preclude her from holding higher office,” he said, referring to the Benghazi terrorist attack in 2012.
Several Congressional reports have cleared Clinton and the rest of the Obama administration of any wrong-doing, though Paul was less than forthcoming with information in his critique.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker added to anti-Hillary rhetoric, implying Clinton is out of touch with regular voters.
“I doubt that the presumptive nominee for the other party has ever been to Kohl’s [department store] before, let alone shopped in the last 15 to 20 years,” he said. He also warned listeners, “This isn't a third term of Bill Clinton — this is a third term of Barack Obama.”
But, in all of these attacks, in all of these criticisms of Clinton, what do we hear from the candidates on the issues?
There’s no doubt these Republicans have made their policy stances public. Yet, we don’t hear their principles frequently acknowledged in the media because these pointless attacks on Clinton are too front and center.
The headlines from these events aren't going to mention New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s views on ISIS or Jeb Bush’s immigration policy.
They’re just going to highlight the “two minutes of hate” that emanated from each of these individuals, squarely directed at Clinton.
And, why shouldn't the media go that route? It's precisely what the candidates are running on. If they wanted to emphasize their policy stances rather than promote their “who hates Hillary more” campaign, they’d do so.
Instead, they are focused purely on Clinton, with bits and pieces of their positions and beliefs on important issues leaking out every once in a while.
The eight years of wildly chaotic (and, oftentimes, baseless) criticisms against President Barack Obama seem to be the new norm when it comes to general campaigning against candidates.
The emphasis isn't going to be placed on the issues that matter. We’ll be lucky if we even get debates with candidates’ specific stances on issues.
No, it seems we can expect the era of “attack campaign” politics to continue for years to come. Hopefully, the electorate will see through these shenanigans and demand an honest debate.
We, the People, deserve nothing less.