The Debate

August 7, 2015

I missed last night’s Republican Presidential Debate. I am sans cable right now—and loving it—and was training for tonight’s 4th Annual EEF Celebrity Spelling Bee. (Training? Yes, for reals, albeit with liquid refreshment to make the process bearable.)*

Since I didn’t see the debate I’m not going to comment on it. Instead, I focus on the absence of a serious debate about government.

Let’s start with Grover Norquist. He developed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge—a website he sponsors says those who follow the pledge “solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases”—and has said

I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.

This man controls the Republican Party. Don’t think so? Read Grover Norquist breaks the GOP: Why Louisiana conservatives are begging for the anti-tax crusader’s mercy by Simon Maloy for Salon on June 9 for an example.)

I have heard people ask the question: If you don’t like government, what right do you have to serve? I don’t think it’s a terribly fair question. There’s a debate we ought to be having about the role of government, it should be an ongoing debate, and it ought to be a serious debate. And the anti-government crowd ought to be part of that serious debate, from inside and outside of government.

I thought about this debate we ought to be having just yesterday afternoon, driving home from work. The story that set my mind to thinking was The Twisty Logic Of The Drought: Grow Thirsty Crops To Dig Deeper Wells by Stacy Vanek Smith for Planet Money on NPR. The essence? Farmers make lots of money growing nut trees, which consume lots and lots of water. Drought interferes. The solution? Deeper wells, and a race to the bottom, with real people—people who need showers, toilets, and drinking water—losing out to rich farmers who can dig the deepest wells.

Is there a role for government in the water race? Sure. Does anyone talk about this issue? No.

I know water policy in California does not rise to the level of a presidential debate. On the other hand, the role of government ought to. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t. What do we have?

Seventeen people are running for the Republican nomination for POTUS. Only a handful are willing to make even the most modest case for government as necessary and worthwhile. And from the other team? Hillary Clinton seems mired in talk about emails, an issue which arises because she decided to use a nongovernmental server. (Talk about unforced errors.) Yes, she does talk about government and she does offer policy prescriptions, but the passion is hard to find. That leaves Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as a lonely voice among 20 or so candidates, advocating for what government does and can do to improve the quality of our lives. (Former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) is another, but he’s a mighty quiet candidate.)

When debates about government get serious, I’ll be there. For now, though, I’d rather spend my time remembering how to spell m-a-g-n-a-n-i-m-o-u-s—the “i” trips me up—and supporting the Educational Enrichment Foundation, which “actively provides enhanced and enriched learning resources for TUSD students, teachers, and schools, advocates for educational excellence for all children, and ensures access to educational enrichment opportunities within TUSD for financially in-need students.” That matters!

*I did get a text message from a friend just after the debate ended. It read “I sure hope Dr. Walter Palmer isn’t in the audience because he just might shoot one of these turkeys.” Truth be told, I suspect Dr. Palmer might find my friend—a rare bird, as a Leftie estate planner—more to his liking as a wall trophy.

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