The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

Make Politics Boring Again

The tumultuous first Republican primary debate dissected
AP Images
Candidates Gov. Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy argue at the initial Republican primary debate on Aug. 23.

Watching political interactions is not supposed to feel like watching “Dance Moms.” In the wake of the Trump administration, that’s something we need to remind ourselves more often.

It wasn’t always normal for possible future presidents to put themselves in front of a camera, verbally brawl for two hours, entirely disregard debate etiquette and blatantly ignore their moderators while an audience jeers them on like it’s a spectator sport.

But maybe that’s our slightly terrifying new normal.

At the first Republican primary debate on Aug. 23, America got its initial impressions of eight of the nine people fighting (literally) for the party’s presidential nomination.

Here’s what you need to know:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis never actually answered a single question throughout the duration of the debate. Instead, he urged us to focus on his role in transforming Florida into the greatest state to ever exist and keeping it open while the pandemic killed over a million Americans.

“As your president, I will never let the deep-state bureaucrats lock you down,” he said. “You don’t take somebody like Fauci and coddle him. You bring Fauci in, you sit him down and you say, ‘Anthony, you are fired.’”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum would like you to know that small towns are almost as important as his pocket constitution, and that violence is the answer.

“Something that would send a lot more than a press release is actually harpoon missiles. We need anti-ship missiles on Taiwan,” he said.

Businessman and author Vivek Ramaswamy plans to eradicate the nation’s “epidemic of fatherlessness” and stands on the side of the American Revolution, which may or may not be happening in the near future. He also knows, for a fact, that we are being lied to about global warming.

“I’m the only person on this stage that wasn’t bought and paid for, so I can say this: climate change is a hoax,” he said.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley disagreed with Ramaswamy on that issue. In the few moments he wasn’t interrupting her, she emphasized the importance of being completely honest with the American people.

“Is climate change real? Yes, it is, but if you want to go and really change the environment, then we need to start telling China and India that they have to lower their emissions,” she said. “That’s where our problem is.”

The U.S. emits more carbon dioxide per capita than both China and India, according to

Former Vice President Mike Pence refused to let us know he’s been doing this since before it was cool.

“Now is not the time for on-the-job-training. We don’t need to bring in a rookie,” he said.

No one lost the audience’s support faster than former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who dared to make a point with a rare glimmer of constitutional basis and earned the lengthiest “boo” of the night. Moderator Bret Baier had to turn around and put the crowd in timeout so the debate could proceed.

Then comes South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. Rest assured that under the Scott administration, especially when abortion rights are involved, America will never again leave it to Illinois.

“Our Declaration of Independence says our creator gave us inalienable rights that include life. That is an issue we must solve,” he said. “We can’t leave it to Illinois. We can’t leave it to Minnesota. We can’t leave it to Illinois.”

And finally, it was almost sad to watch the polite former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson struggle to keep up with the sheer audacity of his peers. I think they had to hide disappointed looks when he said lethal force at the Mexico border should be used sparingly.

There you have it: eight of the nine people the Republican Party considers best qualified to represent it.

It should be noted that Haley and Pence seemed capable, at least compared to their opponents. Their experience was evident; they were decent at explaining policy; they displayed the basic critical-thinking skills that one should probably have when trying to attain the highest office in our country.

But they were forced to waste their time scolding an insufferable Ramaswamy for his petty insults and unrealistic claims. One inexperienced, polarizing candidate destroying the professionalism of the entire debate, sound familiar?

I am, of course, referring to “the elephant not in the room,” as Baier put it. 

With a 50.3% majority in FiveThirtyEight’s national poll as of Thursday, former President Donald Trump seems to think himself above debating the rest of his party’s candidates.

Trump took to Tucker Carlson’s X account five minutes before the debate to broadcast an interview with the former Fox News primetime host. 

Was it an attempt to upstage the other eight candidates? If you know anything about the former president you know the answer.

“And I’m saying, do I sit there for an hour or two hours, whatever it’s going to be, and get harassed by people who shouldn’t even be running for president … and a network that isn’t particularly friendly to me?” Trump said to Carlson.

The broadcast consisted of much important and relevant discussion, like Trump’s vivid description of President Biden being unable to lift a chair at the beach. He would like the American public to note that those chairs are, actually, very lightweight and easy to lift.

Those snide comments aimed at Biden were expectedly common throughout the segment, but one in particular caught my attention:

“I have never seen spirit like there is right now. Even coming down here, just the people on the road are just absolutely going crazy,” Trump said. “ … the reason is because crooked Joe Biden is so bad.”

I think that, for once, Trump actually forgot to give himself credit for something.

The “spirit” of the pro-Trump sector of today’s republicans, their devolvement into extremism and impotence, isn’t Biden’s doing. It’s the same personal brand of chaos that Trump has been injecting into the political bloodstream since 2016.

Messy debates and incompetent politicians are nothing new, but the problem has escalated unimaginably since Trump first took to the stage. Will we ever be able to go back?

I am attempting to be optimistic. I think somewhere in the primary debate, amid all the chaos, there was a sliver of sensible discourse.

Yes, the candidates were yelling at each other, but they were doing so partly because they had technical disagreements about important issues. The bones of a debate with the sole intention of informing the American public were still there.

For better or for worse, on Sept. 27, our candidates for the Republican presidential nominee will take the stage again.

Well, most of them will.