The following is a transcript of a text conversation that a friend of mine from law school and I have been having. For context, we’re both lawyers for the government (she’s federal, I’m state), we both grew up by DC with parents who worked in or with federal agencies and my current text tone is a train whistle. There have been some flashes here and there of conversations about the election, mostly focused on debates. But I’m interested to hear what people have to say, or what notions folks are trying to work into actual coherent ideas, about the election more generally. As a starting point here are our thoughts from this afternoon, it is kind of long, be forewarned!

Me:
Republican debates: populist word salad, attacks on Democrats, false representation of Planned Parenthood videos, Benghazi, is Carly Fiorina offended by Donald Trump’s remarks about her face
Democratic debates: nuanced detailing of policy positions, loud talking discussion of specific bills and policy proposals

My friend:
Hahahahahahaha
I love your implicit disdain for the former set of debates
This text set was awesome

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Me:
It is an accurate description. The democratic debate got much more into the details of what a primary voter cares about.
The republican debates were just folks trying to show they aren’t Democrats, liberals or allies of the Obama administration. Which doesn’t do much to differentiate among them.

My friend:
But one had Donald Trump

Me:
Makes me think the republican primary is going to be won not on policy, but on perception of character, personality and media presence
The democratic primary is more likely to be a policy-based vote, I think. Although, Clinton has the inertia vote behind her, so it is hard to tell if people on the whole support her because of policy or a sense that she’s the inevitable general election candidate.

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My friend:
What did you think about hearing that Trump was the top trending topic on Twitter during the Dem debate?

Me:
I looked at Trump’s Twitter during the debate because he said he would live tweeting. But it was overwhelmingly retweets of stuff folks had tweeted at him
His early comments were completely non-substantive - “Putin isn’t scared of these people”, “why so many commercials”

My friend:
“Why so many commercials” what that’s absurdly funny coming from a businessman
Do you think R field will become more policy focused once there are less candidates?

My friend:
Personality sticking out more than content makes sense at a dinner party if like over a dozen people are trying to talk at the same time.

Me:
I’m not sure! I think that dinner party point is a good one. And probably an apt description of the Republican debates so far.
I think it depends on who stays In the race to that point.
Rand Paul is an issues guy, Marco Rubio is an issues guy, Jeb Bush is an issues guy. Ted Cruz.
If we get down to those people, I could see debates becoming more about differentiating among themselves on policy.

My friend:
Yeah, but I can see that you don’t think that will be what we have at the end and I don’t think so either
Yes, I agree. Those folks value content more than antics.
With the caveat that Ted Cruz offends me the most
I had to say it

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Me:
I’m not sure what we’ll have at the end, but I don’t see Ben Carson dropping out.

My friend:
Oh God, Ben Carson

Me:
Ben Carson is the most offensive to me.
His false science held out with authority, his anti-democratic sentiment, his statements post Oregon shooting

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My friend:
I didn’t see his comments after the Oregon shooting. I tried to avoid hearing electeds and candidates talk callously on something so painful.
I can imagine

Me:
It was truly awful.
Ted Cruz offends me more because of what so see as a disingenuous performance of Tea Party values by an actually intelligent person, who is a skilled attorney who is playing up an angle he knows is effective with base voters rather than one he honestly believes if best for our country.
And less because of the nonsense that comes out of his mouth
Although there is a lot of nonsense
To say it more simply, what bothers me most about Ted Cruz is that when he says that he isn’t playing politics, that statement is his act as a politician. He’s consciously engaging in what he espouses to be the problem with government.

My friend:
“He’s consciously engaging in what he espouses to be the problem with government.” — an incredibly perceptive comment
So you are saying that Ben Carson actually believes the crazy stuff that he says which also riles up his base (i.e. a Muslim shouldn’t be president)
Whereas if Ted Cruz were to say something of that ilk it would be playing politics

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Me:
It is believable to me that Ben Carson believes that. It is not believable to me that Ted Cruz honestly believes that.
Take the government shutdown - there is no way Ted Cruz thinks government shutdown brinksmanship is actually a good governance strategy, but he goes along with it and at times even advocates it because he knows it plays well with vocal and influential republican/conservative folks

My friend:
Yes. I see what you are saying in the gov’t shutdown context. He is too smart for that, so it’s likely he is pandering.
Ugh... Things like that make me think twice about my decades old desire to hold public office.

Me:
I’m less disenchanted with local politics, oddly.
I think people often just think about holding elected office at the national level or high up in state executive branches, and their disillusionment with that arena leads them away from local government too. Even though we really need committed, integral, ethical people to be in local government and state legislatures.
Don’t give up! Just don’t turn into a jerk.

Thoughts, reactions, are we idiots, am I an idiot?

Have a (HUGE) puppy for your trouble.