There were a couple of very clear winners at Wednesday night’s Republican debate. One was Carly Fiorina, who certainly proved she is more than ready for prime time. Because of CNN’s selection process, Fiorina almost didn’t make it to the main event in California. But in many ways she dominated the debate, and she unquestionably has dominated the post-debate analysis.
Even our perspicacious and professorial Charles Krauthammer, a notoriously tough grader, gave Fiorina an ‘A.’ Then, Charles being Charles, he felt compelled to lower that to an ‘A-minus.’
The other big winner, aside from the always articulate and well-informed Marco Rubio, was not actually a candidate. It was an emotion – anger.
One of the night’s most stirring moments came when Fiorina and anger coalesced. Speaking about Planned Parenthood’s gruesome practices, Fiorina displayed sheer indignation, demanding a bill to end federal funding for the abortion provider.
Her take on Planned Parenthood has been the most talked-about sound bite of the debate, with the possible exception of Fiorina’s response to Donald Trump’s comments about her looks. That reply was also laced with righteous anger, which was primarily evident not in Fiorina’s verbiage, but her visage.
Then there was normally amiable Jeb Bush, who angrily defended his brother, saying, “He kept us safe!” Marco Rubio was livid when criticizing the nuke deal with Iran, Chris Christie seemed ticked off while talking about terrorism, Rand Paul was peeved when pontificating on America’s role in the world, and Mike Huckabee grew enraged when the subject turned to religious liberty. Meanwhile, Donald Trump often seemed irate, perfectly understandable considering he was under attack all night long.
The more amiable candidates in the GOP field – notably Ben Carson, Scott Walker, and John Kasich – had a harder time breaking through at the Reagan Library. Not on a night when anger was front and center.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has been soaring in the polls because he has also tapped into a widespread sense of anger among millions of Americans. And, really, who can blame the folks?
Barack Obama promised to bring the country together, but he has been one of the most divisive presidents in history. His signature domestic achievement was rammed through with absolutely no support from Republicans, while the recent deal with Iran has zero support among the GOP and very little backing from the American people.
The economy is stagnant, with wages for working men and women on the decline. Religious Americans feel under siege. President Obama has strengthened secular groups who are hell-bent on destroying traditional American values, especially those in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Meanwhile, the country seems to be more impotent than ever overseas and the world is in chaos.
Given this bleak landscape, conventional candidates have no answers for the citizen fury. Trump, Fiorina, and Sanders currently own the stage and the curtain is not even close to coming down. They are ascendant because they have tapped into the anger of many voters who believe they are being abused and manipulated by craven politicians.
Meanwhile, we have a president who seems totally disengaged, even delusional. The day before the Republican debate, Barack Obama said something fairly remarkable. “America’s winning right now,” he boasted.
Winning? Mr. President, many millions of people simply don’t agree with that assessment. Just ask Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Bernie Sanders.