After GOP presidential ‘debate,’ Americans have cause to be very afraid
GOP candidates Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy. Also present were Chris Christie and Tim Scott. | AP

The debates by the Republican primary candidates, up until Wednesday night, were often sleepers, where the contestants spent most of their time tussling with one another on personal matters and not addressing any important issues. This time, however, they departed from this approach and put forward substantial proposals, most of which would push the world closer than ever to World War III and, here at home, destroy the social safety net.

Five candidates met on stage Wednesday, just a day after the GOP suffered humiliating losses at the hands of voters across the country, including in the reddest of red states. Present for the debate were Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, Nikki Haley, former Trump administration ambassador to the U.N., Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Absent for the third time was former President Donald Trump, who leads the GOP polls so far and held his own rally about 30 miles away, in Hialeah, Fla.

While DeSantis and Haley are struggling for a far-distant second place behind Trump, the other three are fighting to even keep their candidacies alive.

No one knows for sure why they are all staying in the race, but there has been speculation that it might be they are jockeying for a place in a second Trump administration or setting themselves up for future roles in the Republican Party.

Whichever it is, they all showed Wednesday that if any of their proposals became law or if any of them ever gets near the White House, the country would be in deep trouble.

Almost right off the bat they all showed their inability to explain the massive GOP losses at the polls the night before. The last thing they were willing to admit was that the American people are outraged over Republican attacks on democracy and in particular that they reject GOP attempts to control women’s bodies with their attacks on abortion rights.

DeSantis gave explanations for the continual string of recent GOP defeats by saying that the party has to essentially become more Trumpian than it already is.

He did this in a twisted way, blaming Trump himself for the losses and saying, in effect, that Trump was not right-wing enough.

“Donald Trump’s a lot different guy than he was in 2016. He should explain why we didn’t have Mexico pay for the border wall. He should explain why he racked up so much debt. He should explain why he didn’t drain the swamp. And he said Republicans were gonna get tired of winning—what we saw last night, I’m sick of Republicans losing,” DeSantis said. He failed to note that the debt rose because of tax cuts for the rich that he supported.

Ramaswamy doubled down on the Trump policy of attacking the press, and he out did the master himself by attacking women every chance he got.

He said it was shameful that the Republican National Committee allowed NBC News to sponsor the debate and that “Meet the Press” moderator Kristen Welker was asking questions.

He then blamed not the GOP’s support for fascist policies, but RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel for the party getting “trounced” in Tuesday’s elections and other campaigns since 2016.

No sooner had he finished his attack on those two women than Ramaswamy pivoted to target Haley as “Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels,” which drew some boos from the audience.

After that, he attacked Haley’s daughter, noting that she uses Tik Tok. The app is part of the efforts by the Communist Party of China, according to Haley, to control the minds of Americans. Ramaswamy was implying that Haley’s opposition to Tik Tok was hypocritical since she allowed her own daughter to use the supposed Chinese Communist brainwashing platform.

“Leave my daughter out of your voice, you’re just scum,” Haley told him.

At that point, Ramaswamy seemed to run out of women he could attack.

On the issue of abortion rights, all the candidates were off the wall entirely.

Each of them condemned abortions after nine months of pregnancy. Such a thing does not exist anywhere in the country, and if it did it would be infanticide, not abortion.

Chris Christie said it hurt him that his own state of New Jersey permitted abortion at nine months. Sen. Scott said he wanted a federal law to end nine-month abortions in California, Illinois, and New York. Again, in all those cases there is no such thing.

It was obvious Wednesday that the candidates have learned nothing about how 85% of the public supports abortion rights in the country.

Scott called for a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks: “I would challenge Nikki and Ron to join me at a 15-week limit.”

That’s the same length as the state-level policy that Virginia Republicans campaigned on this year, but they lost both houses of the state Legislature on Tuesday.

Haley tried to sound reasonable, despite saying she was opposed to abortion. She said Republicans won’t find the votes to “ban abortions” at the federal level. When pressed on whether she’d enact a 15-week abortion ban, she said: “I would support anything that would pass.”

On foreign policy, all the candidates made clear that they are warmongers who would push U.S. foreign policy further to the right than it already is under the Biden administration.

On Israel’s war against Palestine, they unanimously opposed any talk of a ceasefire and said that civilian deaths in Gaza are the cost that has to be paid in order to destroy Hamas. None supported doing anything that would end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories or open negotiations for a lasting peace.

They all said the U.S. should leave all military decisions up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that the American role should be to provide everything Israel needs to win the war.

They see U.S. support for Israel as part of U.S. support for democracy worldwide. “I would tell Bibi, finish the job,” DeSantis said. “I told Bibi,” Haley proudly proclaimed, “Finish them.”

With the exception of Ramaswamy, they all supported continued and increased U.S.  military support for Ukraine. Despite Ukraine’s banning of 11 opposition parties, many trade unions, total government control of the press, and plans to cancel the next elections, they described that country as a “democracy” that needs U.S. support.

Several, including Haley, Christie and Scott, openly admitted that in Ukraine the U.S. is really fighting a war against Russia. Haley and Scott both said the U.S. must “degrade and destroy” the Russian military and that destruction of the Russian military in Ukraine is an essential first step in getting ready to challenge China and prevent what they see as an imminent attack on Taiwan by China.

The three said the Communist Party of China is a serious threat to security in the United States.

Republican lawmakers, after the debate, started saying that Biden should be making many more demands on the Chinese leadership.

Again, with the exception of Ramaswamy, they warned that the U.S. has to be ready to attack Iran, as well.

Haley said, “The unholy alliance between Russia, Iran, and China is real. There is a reason the Taiwanese want us to support the Ukrainians; it’s because they know that China’s coming after them next. There is a reason Ukrainians want us to support Israelis, because they know that if Iran wins, Russia wins.”

The hysteria against Iran was fed on cable TV the morning after the debate with some pundits noting that a war on Iran wouldn’t have to involve attacks on Tehran, the capital. There is plenty of infrastructure, the warhawks noted, that could be bombed first.

Former President Donald Trump skipped the debate. Far out ahead of his rivals in the polls, he attempted to upstage their show with his own rally in the town of Hialeah, Fla., where Mayor Estevan Bovo announced the naming of a street in Trump’s honor. | AP

Haley said China has to be confronted economically as well as militarily. She attacked DeSantis when discussing her plan. “We will go and end all formal trade relations with China until they stop murdering Americans from fentanyl, something Ron has yet to say that he’s going to do,” she said.

DeSantis hit back: “Ambassador Haley said somehow I wasn’t doing—she welcomed them into South Carolina, and gave them land near a military base, wrote the Chinese ambassador a love letter saying what a great friend they were.” He said that in Florida, “I banned China from buying land in this state.”

Haley retorted: “Yes, I brought a fiberglass company 10 years ago to South Carolina. But Ron, you are the chair of your economic development agency that as of last week said Florida is the ideal place for Chinese businesses.”

She actually challenged DeSantis from the right on environmental policy. “He has opposed fracking, he’s opposed drilling,” Haley said. She called him “a liberal when it comes to the environment,” bringing up an argument she litigated at a previous debate, too.

Almost falling over himself to assure people of his right-wing credentials, DeSantis promised, “We are absolutely going to frack.”

Across the board, the Republican “alternatives” to Trump endorsed deregulation, increased fracking, offshore drilling for oil, and new pipelines as the solution to inflation. Their line of reasoning was that trucks ship what Americans buy, so the lifting of all regulations on fossil fuel companies will lower the cost of fuel for those trucks and therefore decrease what people pay for products they buy.

Destruction of the environment is of no concern for the GOP candidates. When you add in the foreign policy proposals they make, which are the Biden policies on steroids, destruction of the planet is apparently not something they are worried about, either.

On the social safety net, there were calls from most of the candidates to cut Social Security and Medicare. They supported raising the retirement age but would not say to what age. In the past, most of them have aligned themselves with plans raising the retirement age to 70.

They also want to end cost of living and inflation adjustments.

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John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.