So that happened.
The road to the presidency is looooong.
Democracy in America takes a long time to blossom. We still have a couple of months till the first primary, and there are 14 candidates still running for president on the Republican side along with five in the Democratic primary. And last night, on Oct. 28, 2015, the Republican Party held its third big debate out of 12 total debates in sunny Boulder, Colorado.
If you missed it, I thought maybe you could use an overview of the most interesting moments.
Because I'm classy that way. (And my boss says we should try to find the good in everyone, even if we disagree on the issues.)
1. To start, Carly Fiorina shut down a ridiculous double standard about female candidates. With jokes.
Female candidates often get unfairly judged for not being feminine enough. So when CNBC asked her what her biggest weakness is, she went ahead and cracked a joke about it.
2. The debate you probably didn't see was often more interesting than the main one.
Earlier in the night, the four candidates who didn't make the cut to the top 10 on the main stage had an undercard debate. And a couple of them were pretty blunt about where they stood on science — specifically the science of climate change — being real.
3. We learned some surprising things about the French workweek.
The debate moderators and Jeb Bush went on the attack against Marco Rubio for not showing up to vote in the Senate as much as he should.
Rubio pointed out that even President Obama missed a lot of votes while running for president (Obama missed 26% in 2007 and 64% in 2008), and for a good reason: because running for president is a full-time job.
Then Jeb was totally like, "I mean, literally, the Senate — what is it, like a French workweek? You get, like, three days where you have to show up?" (Sick burn, bro.)
I presumed Jeb was exaggerating a little about the French workweek. I thought the French workweek was shorter too. Both Jeb and I were wrong.
I looked into the French workweek, and it turns out the whole stereotype of French people being lazy is a completely cartoonish myth. According to the BBC, France requires overtime pay when you get to 35 hours, instead of 40. And workers often work longer than the minimum. They get rewarded with "rest days" when they have to put in those longer hours (each company is different, but they average about nine rest days a year.) We could use that here in the U.S. — just sayin'. But I digress...
4. Lots of people thought the CNBC moderators could have done better.
There was lots of criticism from both sides for how the debate moderators handled the questions. At first, the questions seemed tough but fair. But upon a second review, there were a lot of "gotcha" questions that seemed petty and basically asked: "Your opponent did this thing one time — explain how awful they are." At one point, the audience actually booed a vapid follow-up question asked to Ben Carson, and I booed along with them.
5. Was a fantasy football chat the best use of our nation's time here? Chris Christie didn't think so.
Christie was as tired of getting absurd questions from the media as the rest of America was. After Jeb was asked if the federal government should regulate fantasy football, Christie chimed in:
6. But one moderator stood up for actual facts: Becky Quick.
Quick was speedy with the whole accountability and fact-checking thing. And she did a thing that never happens in any debate, regardless of party (and usually regardless of what channel it's on): She pushed back when a candidate didn't answer a question and fact-checked him. At one point, she said to Donald Trump: "You had talked a little bit about Marco Rubio. I think you called him Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator because he was in favor of the H1B [work visas]."
To which he responded:
In the moment, she apologized. But 20 minutes later, after double-checking, she brought it back up.
Well played, Quick. Well played. More please.
Speaking of Trump...
7. Donald Trump can be divisive, but last night he said one thing most of us can agree with.
This is rare for me, but regardless of your political beliefs or where you stand on Trump, he said something I'm pretty sure 99% of Americans can get behind: He went off on Super PACs.
He went on to say, "And you better get rid of them because they are causing a lot of bad decisions to be made by some very good people." And he's right. They are really bad.
Does this mean I think Trump will Make America Great Again?™ No.
America already is a great place, with a lot of huge systemic problems that need lots of serious, hard, and nuanced work to fix. His hat isn't going to solve them.
But it does mean that I agree with Trump's assessment on Super PACs being a detriment to society (along with most money in politics, but again I digress.)
What's important is that we hear everyone out on the issues. Because we often ignore what candidates are saying about the issues when we don't like the messenger.
There's value to recognizing when someone you disagree with is on the same page as you about something
I'm not trying to be naive here. I know politics can be a dogfight and just how partisan things have gotten in America. I also know how politicians and the media often go straight for the easy dig, oversimplify things, and turn political races into petty high school brawls.
The whole setup of politics is kind of like rooting for a sports team. You're not going to cheer the Patriots if you're a Jets fan (poor, poor Jets fans). And I wouldn't expect you to cheer for Rubio if you're a Trump supporter. And I definitely wouldn't presume you'd pat Ben Carson on the back if you love Hillary Clinton.
However, there's value to recognizing when someone you disagree with is on the same page as you about something. Remembering they are humans helps keep the conversation civil while we're taking our own stands. And yeah, it's OK to stand up and quietly nod in agreement, even if you sit down and go back to being a Jets fan.
Obviously, being a fan of one sport over another doesn't determine whether my family will have access to health care or how much I pay in taxes. My Denver Broncos won't be starting a Super PAC and running ads about how my senator is a cartoonishly evil super-villain who hates freedom and/or wants the terrorists to win.
The reality is that all the candidates on stage last night said things you or I might fundamentally disagree with. According to FactCheck.org and multiple other sources, many of the things they said weren't based in fact. But even when you don't like the messenger, it's important to listen to the message because the politicians are far less important than the issues facing America today. They won't fix themselves.
Even when you don't like the messenger, it's important to listen to the message.
The media, the candidates, and the system are all set up to hold no one accountable, to encourage partisanship, to get us all to yell past each other. So it's up to you and me to analyze ideas on their merits, to not fall for anyone's tricks or "gotcha" questions, to be diligent about facts, and to not be automatically dismissive of people we disagree with.
Baby steps to democracy.