Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week.
For the few of us who watched it, the first Republican presidential debate, which was held in the same city that will host the Republican National Convention next year, Milwaukee, was a delight.
Punctuated with a few sparks, the debate showed the depth of policy understanding, compassion for the American people, and broad range of opinion imbued in the Republican Party.
My bias is that I do not want Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee.
While I appreciate much about his presidency, he is not the same man who ran in 2020 or 2016. If elected, his constitutionally required single term would make him a lame duck and his ability to deliver the policy successes of his first term is weak.
Furthermore, it is exceedingly improbable that Trump can win a second term. He caught lightning in a bottle in 2016, lost in 2020 as the incumbent, and America in 2024 has moved on. The independents who flocked to his populist message have turned away, and many of the core Republicans who voted for him are not going to do it again. Faced with the prospect of giving President Biden and the Marxists another term to burn down our nation, the Republicans need to nominate someone who can win the general election.
None of the internecine Republican disagreements matter if they lose again.
Back to the debate: Without Trump, the debate was an enlightening display of thoughtful policy disagreements within the Republican Party. It showed the broad tent of a Republican Party that embraces a range of opinions.
When the United States Supreme Court usurped the people’s power with Roe v. Wade, it also short-circuited a substantive policy debate about abortion by making support or opposition to the ruling the proxy for a meaningful discussion.
Absent that proxy, we see a wide range of opinion on abortion and the role of government to regulate it. Former Gov. Nikki Haley made an impassioned appeal for more lenient abortion policy while former Vice President Mike Pence shared his Christian opposition to all abortion. Sen. Tim Scott advocated a federal abortion ban before 15 weeks while Gov. Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie thought that abortion policy should be left to the states. Irrespective of where one’s own opinion falls on this topic, it was a good discussion of the moral and constitutional layers of the issue.
The debate about the United States’ funding of the war in Ukraine was another mature discussion. Vivek Ramaswamy advocated for the immediate stop to funding the war while Haley, Pence, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson strongly supported the funding as an imperative to stop Russian and Chinese aggression on the world stage.
The candidates had varying opinions on climate change, the events of January 6, inflation, border policy, the pandemic response, crime, education, and a host of issues. It was refreshing to listen to an actual debate by thoughtful people of substance about issues that matter to my neighbors and me. While the media likes to obsess over personalities and scandals, we are far more concerned with the issues that impact our everyday lives.
The other thing that struck me about the debate was how much I long for a younger president. Between an octogenarian Biden, a septuagenarian Trump, and our increasingly elderly congressional leaders, our nation needs to move on from the gerontocracy we have allowed to fester. I just do not care about the caustic arguments of old men when our nation is accelerating into ruin.
While it appears that the Republican Party is determined to lose another national election by putting Trump up as their nominee, it is still months until the first votes are taken.
The candidates who respected the voters enough to stand on stage last week and debate the issues that are important to the American people deserve serious consideration.