Center for American Progress Action
The Elephant Was In The Room
The Elephant Was In The Room
Donald Trump wasn’t at tonight’s debate, but his ideas were.
Donald Trump Wasn’t At Tonight’s Debate, But His Ideas Were
Donald Trump did not participate in Thursday night’s debate, yet the GOP candidates on stage all sounded like the boisterous Republican presidential frontrunner. The debate featured more substantive policy discussions, but the ideas they expressed still reflected the party’s most conservative wing: from repeated attacks on immigrants and refugees, to defunding Planned Parenthood, to ripping up the Affordable Care Act and stripping health care from millions. There were no plans to improve the economic security of families that are still waiting for the recovery to come to their door. No ideas for economic policies that recognize a 21st century workplace, like equal pay, paid leave or affordable child care.
Instead, the seven Republicans vying for the GOP nomination sought to out-trump Trump:
In Trump-like fashion, Cruz stated, “we can build a fence” and advocated for the elimination of sanctuary cities. Rubio echoed Trump’s promise to “finish the 700 miles of fencing and walls our nation needs” and went after President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Those initiatives — DAPA and DACA — have helped nearly 5 million people, and blocking them costs the United States $8.4 million every day.
Comprehensive immigration reform would boost the US economy by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. And in Iowa, where all of the GOP candidates are clamoring for votes in Monday’s caucus, reform would grow the Hawkeye State’s economy by $6 billion over the next decade.
The candidates recited Islamophobic and anti-refugee rhetoric trademarked by The Donald. Rand Paul suggested more scrutiny on “those who are coming as immigrants” and “those who are coming as refugees.” And when asked whether he would be willing to shut down mosques, Rubio said, “if there is some place in this country where radical jihadists are planning to attack the United States, we will go after them wherever they are.”
In reality, individuals who enter the United States and apply for refugee status already undergo a vigorous 21-step screening process that can take up to two years. Since 1975, the U.S. has resettled more than 3 million refugees from around the world none of whom were charged with committing terrorist acts. Not to mention the fact that painting all refugees as terrorists or even throwing up bureaucratic hurdles to “pause” the entry process only validates ISIS’s propaganda about the West closing its doors to all Muslims.
On ISIS, the GOP candidates were all bluster. Ted Cruz defended his call to carpet bomb the Middle East, saying, “It is not tough talk. It is a different, fundamental military strategy.” Chris Christie promised to simply “take them on” and Rubio vowed to use “overwhelming U.S. force.”
But hot rhetoric doesn’t make for a coherent foreign policy. In order to beat back the threat of ISIS, the U.S. has led a strong coalition of at least 62 countries committed to fighting terrorism in the region. As of December 9, 2015, that coalition had conducted nearly 9,000 strikes. The U.S. has been responsible for nearly 80 percent of all coalition airstrikes, killing 15,000 terrorists and shrinking the territory under ISIS control.
BOTTOM LINE: Debate moderator Megyn Kelly kicked off the debate by asking Ted Cruz to “address the elephant not in the room tonight.” After two hours of the GOP candidates doing their best to appeal to the most conservative voters, it felt like Trump was, in fact, present.
The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.