Presidential Debate

The Fox Business Network (FBN) streamed the Republican Presidential Debate live on Thursday, January 14th, from the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in South Carolina. The debate featured the numerous candidates vying for the party’s nomination, including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie. They focused on economic, domestic, and international policy issues.

During the debate, Ted Cruz was targeted because of his birth in Canada, despite having American parents. In retaliation, he pointed out how some of the strictest rules mandate that in order to run for president, a candidate must not only be born in the United States, but both of the candidate’s parents have to be born in the country as well. On such grounds, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio would all be disqualified. “But I was born here” pointed out Trump, the current Republican frontrunner. “On the issue of citizenship, it’s different,” said Cruz.

At that point, Rubio said he thought they were straying from the most important topics, and decided to focus on the current president, Democrat Barack Obama. Rubio said that back in 2008, the United States elected a president that did not want to fix the country, but instead wanted to change it altogether. He claimed that Obama did not believe in the Constitution, and was instead working to undermine the document and weaken America on a global scale. “That’s why I’m running for office,” he said. “When I become president of the United States, we are going to repeal every single one of his unconstitutional orders, take away Obama Care, and we are rebuilding our military” he continued.

According to the World Bank, the United States is already one of the top spenders for military purposes out of all the nations in the world. Even a powerful country such as Russia spends only half of what we do. And while the amount of men enrolled in the military has been taken down to it’s minimum, the access to new, technological, and sophisticated resources, including the use of drones, has lowered the number of casualties in war. Rubio finished off by saying: “We’re not just gonna have a president that says, ‘America is the greatest country in the world;’ we’re gonna have a president that acts like it.” It was this one point, Obama being a bad president, that all the candidates agreed upon.

Immigration was also discussed during the debate. Rubio said that our legal immigration system from now on has to be merit-based. He asserted that permission to enter the country ought to granted based on what skills one has to offer, what one can contribute to the economy, and most importantly, whether or not one is coming here to “not just live in America, but be an American.” His plan for immigration reform included building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and a tracking system for those entering the country. He explained his system saying that, “Forty percent of the people who come here illegally come legally, and then overstay the visa. We need a mandatory e-verify system.” Rubio continued, “If you’re a criminal, obviously, you will not be able to stay.”

When asked about Rubio’s comments, Clarissa Schöenborn (‘17) said, “I don’t think he is right. I don’t even believe he believes what he is saying. I think that Marco Rubio is pandering to the extreme side of the Republican electorate. Most Republican candidates have to do this because that is the segment of their likely voters that is most likely to turn out to vote in primaries.” In past primary elections, there has been a trend of more conservative and politically active Republicans going out to vote for the party’s presidential candidates. The same is true for the Democratic Party, with more primary voters attracted to the further political left. She added, “The Republican electorate, when it comes to immigration, is widely perceived as having two opposing sides. On one side you have business interests that benefit from immigration, and they benefit even more if migrants are here illegally since it is easier to exploit illegal migrants. On the other side you have the individuals who advocate for tactics like deportation. This group is larger than the first, and their economic situation is in decline.” She concluded, “Often, they blame migrants for this decline, and this frustration is expressed as racism and calls for deportation.”
León de la Torre (‘16) believes, “Candidates like Rubio are financed by the business interests of the Republican Party, but they are elected by the more numerous side (the one in economic decline). Thus, most of their statements at this stage have to be seen through this lens. Once the general election comes along, I would be willing to bet that all calls for a wall and mass deportations will cease since at that time Marco Rubio will be pandering to a different set of voters.” Among the different set of voters referred to is the large majority of moderate voters in the U.S. that participate in the general election and are quite influential in choosing the country’s president. Generally, such voters are not as likely to be so strict on matters of immigration as Rubio pronounced during the debate. He elaborated, “This is not to say that all candidates are pandering when they make outlandish statements.” Rubio, however, prior to campaigning his position on the issue was much more moderate, and he even authored bills to create a possible path for citizenship for current illegal immigrants.

According to Fox, the previous debate, which took place back in November, was the most watched livestreamed event ever with 13.5 million people watching. Since then, Donald Trump has continued to be the current top Republican candidate followed by Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina.

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