6 Painfully Depressing Moments At The GOP Debate To Begin Bracing Yourself For

A sense of mystery hangs over the first Republican presidential debate of the year. With four days left until candidates are scheduled to take to the stage at the North Charleston Colosseum, who will be onstage and what they will be discussing is still a matter of speculation. Fox Business News hasn't named the participants, and the featured debate themes of "economic, domestic and international policy issues" offer no substantive hints as to the questions coming from moderators Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo.

Here's what has been released about how candidates will be selected. According to a statement by Fox Business News, "the debates will factor in both national polls, as well as those based in Iowa and New Hampshire conducted and released prior to Monday, January 11 at 6 p.m. ET," with the top six nationally, or the top five in Iowa or New Hampshire, invited to prime time. The specific polls that will be used, and how many candidates will be on the main stage, is still unknown. While the identity of the debaters is being kept from voters for the time being, after sitting through the five previous contests, I have a pretty good feeling that there some things that just won't come up over the course of the evening.

1. Nobody Will Note The Dire State Of The Climate


Despite the previous debate occurring just days after the wide-ranging COP21 agreement was reached in Paris, not a single question about climate change was directed toward the ensemble. The only time the topic came up was when Ohio Gov. John Kasich criticized the participants and the process, saying "they should have been talking about destroying ISIS, because they are involved in virtually every country, you know, across this world." Just the kind of sober reasoning that you would hope to find in a presidential candidate.

The ongoing crisis in Porter Ranch, California — described by veteran consumer advocate Erin Brockovich as "the BP spill on land" — which has seen over 1,000 tons of methane spewed into the Southern California air each day since October, and has resulted in the displacement of 1,800 families from the idyllic suburb, will naturally not be mentioned either.

2. We Will Not Hear The End Of Birtherism

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Just because President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday does not mean that the American body politic will be free from frenzied speculation over birth certificates. Donald Trump hasn't shied away from raising questions about Cruz's eligibility to take the oath of office, suggesting that a President Cruz may have to spend years of his administration dealing with court challenges. In an interview with The Washington Post published Tuesday, Trump said:

Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem.

Since John McCain's 2000 attempt for the GOP nomination, it has become a normal part of each election cycle to debate what the founders meant when they said that the President must be a "natural-born citizen." Cruz's policies toward women's healthcare, immigration, and military action in the Middle East should raise enough eyebrows without the need to resort to nitpicking his American identity. Enough, already!


3. Jeb Bush Won't Be Able To Connect With Voters

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The Bush campaign started 2015 on a high note, with a clear lead in polling averages, peaking at about 11 percent in February. Nearly a year later, his lead has fizzled into the range of under 5 percent in Iowa, his appearances on the campaign trail are a baffling mix of sclerotic speeches and uneasy glad-handing, and all of the exclamation points in the world haven't been able to inject his efforts with any appreciable signs of life.

4. The Phrase "Black Lives Matter" Will Not Be Used On Stage; Nobody Will #SayHerName

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Less than 10 miles away from the debate stage in the heart of historic Charleston lies Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a scene of senseless horror just six months ago, when Dylann Roof slaughtered nine parishioners, including North Carolina State Sen. Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, after attending a prayer meeting at the historic black church. This act of violence, the hollow justice in the case of Sandra Bland, and the abiding culture of systemic violence against minority lives in the U.S. isn't likely to receive the attention that it so desperately deserves.

5. Women's Voices Will Not Be Heard

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The exact metrics that Fox Business News will be using to decide who is included on the main stage and who is relegated to the warm-up round hasn't been finalized or made completely public yet, but it is highly unlikely that the sole female candidate in the Republican field, Carly Fiorina, will join current frontrunners Trump and Cruz on the main debate stage Thursday. Currently, Fiorina is averaging 1.8 percent in the Iowa polls, down from a high of 4.8 percent in September, and 3.5 percent in aggregate New Hampshire polling. It seems unlikely that women's concerns will be represented in any meaningful capacity Thursday night.

6. Donald Trump Will Not Be Able To Keep His Chill

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Whether it is interrupting others, making spurious, bombastic allegations against American Muslims (or Hispanics, or African Americans, or women ...), or pulling faces to steal the show while his opponents are speaking, it's highly unlikely that Trump will be able to act somewhat presidential for more than a few moments. He still boasts a commanding lead in New Hampshire, but Cruz has overtaken him in Iowa. While we're unlikely to see Trump end his candidacy just because of this relatively small setback, it could prompt him to be even more aggressive than usual on stage.

Halfway through the Republican debate schedule, it is pretty likely that the combative tenor established in the five previous events will continue, at the expense of substantive conversations about the economy and international relations, much less anything about sustainable development or women's reproductive rights. That shouldn't be an excuse, however, to stop paying attention or taking critical looks at each and every candidate for president in this election cycle. Now more than ever, in order to resurrect a functioning democracy, voters must continue to hold candidates accountable for what they say, and what they neglect to say.