There is a sense in American Politics that the Republican Presidential Debate Circus is coming to the town. In 2012 cycle Republican party faced many number of debate participants, each one overdoing the other in extreme policy proposals to please Tea Party Base. 2016 cycle does not seem to be any different with the additional Clown Chief Donald Trump as the kicker. On Republican side the sense of 'seriousness is understandable'; well illustrated by the piles of money raised by various Super PACs as well as hosannas raised to party 'spiritual leader or god of wealth' Koch Brothers. But still it is all a circus, here are some of the main reasons:
1. As usual Trump and most Republican Candidates have started their campaign more or less exclusively based on that fabled American rage against 'these Washington Politicians'. This is a classic American boggy man. American voters, especially radical Republicans and Tea Party members, hide behind such anger while dispensing any responsibility whatsoever a voter has - to evaluate any policy proposal on common sense basis. And for candidates, oh yeah, safest bet is to start the campaign by condemning Obama, his regime and some imaginary claims of how they will go beyond the 'broken Washington'. For most Republican Candidates, 'Washington is always broken' while ignoring the mayhem their own party members cause in Congress. And when these Republican candidates are not 'running on anger against Washington'; they would base their campaign on mythical prosperity and vanquishing terrorists which they see in American Union folks!
2. Hillary Clinton talked about how she wants to tackle money in American Politics. Of course, that is hypocritical since she more or less raises the money same way as Jeb Bush; who is all content in 'playing by the rules' ignoring the larger damage done to American Democracy. Carly Fiorina said in a sense correctly that 'any kind of speech costs money in our country' implying that those who would not have money obviously do not have 'right to speech' in any effective manner! There you go, those 47% of Americans.....Point is none of the Republican Candidates are expected to address this obvious corruption going on in American Politics - deep influence of money in American Campaigns, open malarkey called Super PACs and sheer amounts involved in all this.
3. American Electoral System has developed organically. It is one of the rare political systems which has lasted over centuries, but from time to time it needed improvements and upgrade. Today, there are number of weaknesses of the system which have been exposed for a while and none of these Republican Candidates are offering any solutions for these gaps. Namely, the important issues are:
a) We know that we can have an American President with lower popular votes than the defeated candidate. Electoral votes system is faulty and a right way to fix is two pass national popular vote - first pass where all candidates vie while in the second pass top two candidates campaign if none gets 50% of the eligible votes in the first pass.
b) Gerrymandering of Congressional Districts is a well documented problem which ends up resulting in million more votes for Democrats but still Democrats having much less seats than Republicans in the House. Essentially this makes our 'representative democracy as a sham'; again no one will speak about that.
c) There is an active suppression of Black Votes in this country, getting fillip on those techniques in recent years after Supreme Court essentially loosened provisions of Voting Rights Act. (It is no surprise that Conservative Roberts Court has set in motion many of these damaging changes, likes of Citizens United to unleash money in American Politics, loosening of Voting Rights Act or continued ignorance of rampant guns in America.) Instead of ensuring 'every vote counts in 21st century'; American Electoral System is sliding towards active and open voter suppression.
4. These Republican Presidential Candidates get outraged when Supreme Court backs gay marriage or ObamaCare. Their solution is a yet another outrages proposal - abolish the Supreme Court. Thank lord so far none of them have said to banish Roberts Court judges to an island. Again, these Republican Candidates are not offering any constructive solutions like 'term limits' for Supreme Court judges; but simply emitting hot air in this regard.
5. When it comes to the core problem of 'economic well-being of common Americans' in today's times; we still get same old failed policies of 'tax cuts for rich' to make outlandish and non-substantiated 4% or 5% growth rate projections. There is no policy dexterity in understanding the need to intervene Global Capitalism to protect livelihood of common people / labor. We need articulation of ideas along the lines:
a) increased participation of labor in profit sharing or broader equity sharing and
b) continued strengthening of safety nets we have (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ObamaCare, Unemployment Insurance and Disability Insurance) to cope up with turmoils of inevitable job losses in today's hyper competitive Capitalism.
No one is expecting Republican Candidates to argue for a Barnie Sanders style socialistic plan. What we need is a clear acknowledgement of 'loop sided' distribution of economic growth and a sensible policy framework to correct that imbalance without destroying the heart of Capitalism - creative destruction with individual rewards and self help.
Reasons Republican Candidates struggle in articulating any such sensible economic policy framework are:
a) ideological blindness to anything which is not Reaganomics i.e. tax cuts for rich; and
b) refusal to accept the role of Government / State in providing the needed 'intervention' in a capitalistic system to correct it's imbalances.
6. Similar kind of adherence to extreme ideology is exhibited by most of these Republican Candidates when it comes to Foreign Policy - all of these candidates chastise President Obama for being 'weak' and all argue that they will be 'tough' with Russia, China, Iran; you name it. Moreover, many would openly want to continue the disastrous foreign policy of George W. Bush. It was a surprise that Jeb Bush entered the presidential campaign without having a decent answer to the question - whether he would wage the Iraq war as like his brother did? Jeb Bush shows extreme preparedness and discipline when it comes to raising money, but that same kind of home work is missing when it comes to foreign policy. Worst, when he argues that ISIS wants 'to wage a war against Western Civilization'; he is playing in hands of ISIS and that is the exact argumentation - 'us versus they' - his brother used to take us to astray.
There is a place for American Exceptionalism in today's world. It is practically impossible to visualize bright and peaceful future for humanity in absence of America on this planet. But as our nations and societies come up - China, India and even countries like Iran in future - it will not be America alone to carry the weight and responsibility of peaceful world. Wisdom for America is in recognizing this global context and to transition from 'Pax Americana' role to 'the global nerve center of deeply entranced alliances'.
7. Finally, America today is a highly polarized society politically. President Obama failed in unifying America even though we might grant him great success for his policy achievements or excuse him for already developing political polarization before his first term. Fact is President Obama did not reduce any of our political polarization. Persistently agitated state like that fails us in taking on any of the larger challenges mentioned above. The current Republican field is nowhere at even starting point of how to bridge this political gap between two warring factions of America - Reds and Blues. Rather rhetoric of Republicans is to exasperate this polarization. No wonder so many in America yawns at the Republican Presidential Debate as one more media circus show.