GOP debate

I watched the GOP debate in South Carolina tonight. I did so not long after reading Lies My Teacher Told Me, an oldie but a goodie about bad history textbooks. It struck me, watching Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul duke it out, how pervasive the ideology of American exceptionalism has been lately in the campaign. Both parties tip into that dark well of power at will, of course, but it seemed particularly naked tonight. Gingrich is the most obvious source of it, but Romney, in his closing remarks, sounded like he was ready to lead an anti-socialist pogrom, and Santorum, the last speaker, seemed disappointed he couldn’t raise it with a book-burning.

The opener, the question about Newt’s ex-wife was pretty tasteless, but 1) it was essentially a softball for Newt in that it allowed him to win the audience immediately – if I were him I would have paid money to get that as the first question – and 2) it is the first time I’ve heard the term “open marriage” on network TV. It’s too bad Dan Savage doesn’t moderate for CNN…

What I found most compelling, though, is what wasn’t talked about. No class, no race, no gender, no religion, no foreign policy, even. Very little discussion of the root causes of any problem, as the answer is always ‘government,’  as if there were nothing wrong with American society besides that. In other words, the field has turned right pretty hard, when Romney, the  supposed moderate, comes off as the pitchfork-bearer. I can’t say this strategy will prove useful in a general election for any of the participants.

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