The second Republican Presidential Debate, held last night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, seemed like déjà vu from the first in many ways. There were some missed opportunities by some candidates and wasted time by others. There were several moments where it seemed more like children verbally jostling on a playground as opposed to trying to provide solutions to the American voters. However, there are some important and key takeaways for Christians.
The predominance of individual attacks, crosstalk, and even a threat from the moderators to cut a candidate’s microphone combined to create chaos and a waste of time for all contenders on stage. Despite the disorder that often took center stage, important topics such as the economy, inflation, immigration, and education were all subjects of discussion. Some of the winners from last night were Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Senator Tim Scott. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did not seem to do any better in this debate than in the first one. He remains in the bottom of the pack. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy performed well in the first debate but came across as flaky this time. It appeared in the second debate that he had changed his tone and was attempting to provide answers that were more pleasing to the voters as opposed to his stances on the issues. He also took some more attacks from candidates on his inexperience, business ties with China, and ignorance of foreign policy.
DeSantis seemed to have taken a backseat in the first debate and been overshadowed by the strength of opponents such as Haley and Ramaswamy. It was not the case this time. DeSantis came out swinging at President Joe Biden, Congress, and former President Donald Trump. “The people in Washington are shutting down the American dream with their reckless behavior and where’s Joe Biden? He’s completely missing in action, and you want to know who else is missing in action? Donald Trump should be on the stage to defend his record,” DeSantis said.
Haley delivered another strong performance in this debate. Her foreign policy expertise was confidently delivered and her passion for parental involvement in their child’s education was clear. She advocated for increased ability for parental involvement and engagement with their child’s school and enabling parents to have input on what is taught to their children.
Haley, like her counterparts on stage, all missed opportunities to address the glaring and overlooked truth of most parental involvement problems with schools. It is not exclusively the fault of schools which prevents parental involvement. It is parents themselves which do not engage with the schools. Although there may be some questionable lessons in a few schools across the country, candidates may want to visit a public classroom and spend the day seeing what a day is like for teachers. Additionally, I dare any candidate advocating for parental involvement in schools to spend a few hours at a parent teacher conference and see how many parents show up to speak with their child’s teacher. The problem with parental involvement is not schools blocking the involvement. It is the apathy of parents keeping them from being informed. No candidate on the stage acknowledged the need or provided solutions for motivating parents to communicate with teachers or overcoming parental apathy.
Christie appeared disoriented and uninformed about current events. Perhaps that is because he spent most of his time, just as in the last debate, focused on attacking Trump rather than giving solutions to how he will resolve the problems America faces right now. His answers to moderator questions appeared vague and ambiguous. He provided no specific plans to correct inflation, foreign relations, or the economy. He did, on the other hand, say he would send National Guard troops to the border as a surge of migrants continue to run like a river across our southern border. He presented the idea of sending troops to the border as a new concept or proposal. It is not a new idea because National Guard troops have already been at the border and continue to be deployed to our southern border.
The border crisis appeared to be a topic of agreement for candidates on the stage. Each candidate agreed something needed to be done and it was a dangerous problem for the country. Candidates had slightly different propositions as to how to address and resolve the problem. The candidates missed the opportunity to speak to helping those migrants already in the country. Government and Christian resources are strapped and overrun by the needs of immigrants already in the states. Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Biden refuses to take his calls regarding the migrant crisis and its drain on resources. The candidates, on the other hand, did not provide solutions to help those like Dolan and the Church with resources or solutions.
The overall takeaway from the debate is that each candidate stuck to specific talking points, with lines that were obviously rehearsed and planned but did not reflect an understanding of the totality of any problem or how to resolve it. A few candidates put up strong and winning performances. Some of those on the stage performed poorly and are counted among the losers of the debate. The reality is that neither candidate appears to be bridging the gap between front runner Trump and the rest of the field. Someone will need to step up and provide strong solutions and an understanding of the full picture of each problem this country faces and how to solve it to gain the nomination. Criticisms of Biden and Congress will be pointless if one does not win the nomination by overcoming the gap.