Republicans Ignore Black Lives Matter At The GOP Debate, Time & Time Again

In every presidential debate, there are certain issues that you can expect to hear about — guns, health care, the economy, the military, etc. Then, there are the issues that you want to hear about, but probably won't — think, climate change and student loan debt. Finally, if it's a Republican debate, there's probably at least one other issue that really needs to come up but doesn't: On the debate stage, the GOP candidates tend to ignore the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Thursday, the top seven Republican candidates for president gathered on the Fox Business Network stage during the first debate of 2016, the sixth Republican debate of this election cycle. In a two-hour, primetime debate, several hot talked-about issues came up, including ISIS, gun control, and even Ted Cruz's eligibility to serve as president.

What didn't (or better yet, barely) came up, though, was the deep-rooted tension that has taken hold of the country and caused uproars in cities like Baltimore and Chicago following fatal police shootings. In fact, Donald Trump was the first person to even come close to referencing the issue that relates to the Black Lives Matter movement — and that wasn't until roughly three-quarters of the way through the debate. Not to mention, it wasn't really a recognition of the problem.

In a response that actually had nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter movement or the issue of tension between people and police, Trump alluded to his feelings about the issue. He was defending his proposed ban on Muslim immigration to the United States and referencing the recent attack in San Bernardino, California, when he said, "The police are the most mistreated people in this country." It was a "by the way"-sort of statement, but it was the first mention of an issue that has only come up sparingly throughout the several Republican debates.

In the first Republican debate back in August, the only direct question about Black Lives Matter was posed to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. (The moderators also asked neurosurgeon Ben Carson how he would resolve the apparent divide in society, to which he responded that he doesn't like to talk about race on the campaign trail.) In the second showdown in September, no questions were asked about Black Lives Matter, although the candidates were asked what their Secret Service code names would be. The third Republican debate in October had Chris Christie passionately standing up for police officers, saying that the president was not doing the same, but he didn't directly reference the movement. Although the issues of police brutality, widespread protest, and racial tensions have come up in each of these instances, it's wholly unclear how the candidates would resolve these issues if elected... because, quite frankly, they haven't been properly asked about it.

Toward the end of the sixth GOP debate on Thursday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was asked about his response to the recent turmoil in Chicago and the police department's decision to re-train its forces in the wake of fatal shootings. Kasich gave perhaps the most extensive answer of any GOP candidate to date about this issue, calling for greater trust between a community and its forces. "Protest is fine, but violence is wrong," he said.

Although the Black Lives Matter movement has come up here and there in Republican debates, it remains a marginal topic in these conversations. The American people, though, probably don't see it that way.