The seven remaining Republican presidential candidates squared off in New Hampshire on Saturday night in the eighth debate of the primary season in nearly as many months. The debate had several exciting moments: businessman Donald Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush fought over real estate practices; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz pounced on each other’s history of governing; and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson expressed disappointment over the Cruz campaign’s move to spread rumors that Carson pulled out of the presidential race ahead of the Iowa caucus. It was an exciting night. But still, after seven other debates (and all the endless campaigning in between) it probably all seemed a bit tired and redundant to people watching. And in a sea of tweets (because this is 2016 and does a televised event even happen if you aren't following along with the associated hashtag? #GOPDebate), this one single GOP debate tweet perfectly sums up why the primaries are starting to feel like the longest job interview we’ve ever witnessed.
The tweet came from a presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders, who typically offers a running commentary of the GOP debates to his 1.3 million followers on Twitter. Sanders opted to skip a series of live updates on Saturday night in favor of one very strong statement about the Republican slate of candidates. “Not good enough. Watch @NBCSNL instead,” Sanders wrote, referring to his cameo appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live alongside comedian Larry David.
Like the rest of us, Sanders sounded ready for the GOP primary season to be over.
I mean, I can't say watching Saturday Night Live doesn't sound a hell of a lot more entertaining than watching another debate. I'm only human.
Inter-candidate fireworks aside, if the topics in Saturday’s GOP debate felt redundant, it’s because, well, we’ve heard it all before. During a live broadcast of the GOP debate, Trump revived his call for waterboarding and anti-terrorism tactics he promised would be “a hell of a lot worse,” even though the George W. Bush administration came under serious criticism for using the interrogation technique, which simulates drowning. This time, though, he wasn’t alone in his position: Cruz said he would be open to waterboarding in emergency situations and Sen. Marco Rubio added that questioning of reported terrorists should follow different rules from routine law enforcement, according to the Washington Post.
And as in the seven prior GOP debates, the candidates offered conflicting opinions about women’s rights. This time, the Republican responses on drafting women for military service clashed against their well-worn positions on reproductive rights. Each of the Republican candidates defended women’s rights to serve in the armed forces — and to register for the draft. Christie spoke passionately about women’s rights to make their own choices in life (when it comes to serving in the military):
We need to be a party and a people that make sure that our women in this country understand anything they can dream, anything that they want to aspire to, they can do. That's the way we raise our daughters, and that's what we should aspire to as president for all the women in our country.
But that sentiment ended, quite predictably, when the candidates were asked about abortion and reproductive rights. That was when the all-male dais — once again — argued that they and other lawmakers knew best when it comes to women’s rights to choose for themselves.
So, while some of the snipes in the latest GOP debate might have seemed new, nothing has really changed on the Republican stage in the last seven months. No one said anything new. The (albeit slightly smaller) field of GOP candidates was still invested in promoting extreme and divisive opinions on the hot-button political issues. And, as Sanders pointed out in his tweet, none of it felt good enough.
Can we just vote, already?