By: Harmesh Bhambra '16
The Grand Old Party’s fourth debate of the year took place on November 10 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While most of the post-match analysis focused on the reasoned debate on policy, what really shone through was the brilliant oratory on display by the range of candidates.
Many people claim that the quality of public discourse has diminished in recent times. But the Republican debates are proof otherwise. At the debate in Colorado on October 9, Donald Trump showed the brilliance of a devastatingly simple and direct form of dialogue, best demonstrated when he ripped into John Kasich. "He got nasty, so you know what? You can have him.” Mike Huckabee conveyed stark humility and self-awareness unseen before by a potential president. “I don’t really have any weaknesses that I can think of.” Jeb Bush revealed titillating tactics to entice bi-partisan decision-making. “You find a Democrat that is for cutting spending ten dollars, I’ll give them a warm kiss.”
Oh, how the past greats of US politics must be turning in their graves at their inadequacies. Historians believe that the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 set the standard, but surely the 2015 Republican debates have eclipsed them. Even Trump’s statesmanship has gone further than Lincoln could have imagined. By spoofing Drake’s single “Hotline Bling” on Saturday Night Live this billionaire made himself one of the “people” and by doing so neutralized the effect of Marco Rubio’s “backstory.”
The same trends are apparent on the other side of the Atlantic. In the UK, the House of Commons has been blessed with coruscating public speakers, such as Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli. These were men who could craft a blistering attack on fellow politicians. Benjamin Disraeli (who would eventually become Prime Minister) once commented on the then Prime Minister Lord Russell that “If a traveller were informed that such a man were leader of the House of Commons, he may well begin to comprehend how the Egyptians worshipped an insect.” But these former greats must surely lament their inadequacy when compared to the current Prime Minister, David Cameron. What his predecessors did not intuit was that great speakers use their own language; Cameron is not limited by the English language. Earlier in the year, with a stroke of genius, Cameron managed to befuddle completely the shadow finance minister by accusing him of “political masosadism”.
So we should all savor this crop of Republican candidates. When faced with the prospect of four years of Hillary Clinton could we ask for anything more than Trump’s swashbuckling oratory?
Harmesh is eagerly waiting for Hillary’s rendition of Hotline Bling