Reader questions for the GOP candidates
Matters of character were a recurring theme. Welcome to Up for Debate. Each week, Conor Friedersdorf rounds up timely conversations and solicits reader responses to one thought-provoking question. Later, he publishes some thoughtful replies. Sign up for the newsletter here. Last week I asked readers, If you could pose one earnest question to any of the Republican candidates, what would it be? Replies have been edited for length and clarity. Glen posed one of the most popular questions: Who was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election? JoAnn asked, Would you still support Donald Trump for president if the January 6 crowd had hung or harmed Mike Pence or Nancy Pelosi? Greg offered an amusing variation: If, as Trump and many of his allies claim, he won in 2020, wouldnt this mean that he had won the presidency twice and therefore could not run again? Dean wrote: One question I would want to ask the Republican candidates not named Trump is, How would your administration govern differently from a Trump administration? That the question even needs to be asked speaks to a failure on the part of these candidates, who shouldnt need prodding to distinguish themselves from the former president and his governing style. After all, if anyone can beat Trump in the Republican primary, it surely wont be an empty suit. The question I ask above is distinct from all those questions that would ask for a candidates reactive attitudes toward all things Trump, which are backward-looking and demand little more from the candidates than their poll-tested praise or condemnation. What have the candidates learned from the Trump presidency (warts and all)? How do each of them intend to build upon whatever they take to be its successes while avoiding its failures, which have to include losing the presidency after a single term? What will they do differently and why? Matters of character were a recurring theme. Katherine asked, How do you personally define integrity, and how do you think youve represented it in both your private and political career? Joseph wrote, You have articulated various ideological, philosophical, and moral principles in your campaign. Are there any good things that your principles prevent you from doing? Are there any policy goals that you believe are good but refuse to implement based on your principles? Cynthia asked, Why do so many evangelicals embrace a man who in no way, shape, or form embodies anything remotely Christian? Clifford wondered, Do you believe that Trump should be returned to the White House despite his obvious criminality? If yes, how does that square with your partys law-and-order mantra? Paul focused on the economy: Economic globalization has created many winners and many losers. For Americans whove found themselves left behind by these economic shifts, what specific, realistic policies or programs will you sponsor to help these Americans to develop the skills and abilities to participate and succeed more fully in the 21st-century workforce? Im not interested in the blame game but rather in concrete, specific actions you will take that will be helpful. So did Eric, who wrote, Despite low unemployment, economic pessimism remains high, stemming from real wages failing to keep up with costs, particularly for the low-income. What would you do to fix that? DC asked, What brings you the most joy in life? Many of you evinced concern about how to live together despite our differences. Carolyn wrote: Our unique U.S. Constitution was the result of productive debate and compromise conducted under uncomfortably hot and sticky conditions that could have led to short tempers and bickering instead of a democracy. In the now temperature-controlled chambers of government, what procedures and strategies will you promise to use to prioritize compromise for the good of the country instead of nonproductive and/or clearly biased party politics? Karen wrote, American democracy requires negotiation and compromise to work. Can you give something to the opposition in order to get things done, even if it angers your base? Gregg asked, What will you do to unify all people in the U.S.A., not just your party? Bob wondered, As president, what would you do to address the divisive hatred within America and restore civility? Francis wrote, Name three pieces of legislation you would introduce, define, explain, and promote for congressional approval that would benefit ALL U.S. citizens? Connie wrote: In our very divided country, what tactics would you implement to bring the far right and the far left closer together so our country thrives and is more respectful to our differences in beliefs? Milton asked, Do you think the election of Trump has brought this country together or divided it further? Vickie had a question for Ron DeSantis: I live in Florida and I would like DeSantis to explain the definition of woke and his plans to fight it. Zbig asked: Why do you think the U.S.-Mexico border should be closed but you dont criticize those who illegally employ illegal immigrants? What legal consequences do you recommend? Douglas asked about womens health care: Idaho has banned abortions. As a result, OB/GYN physicians have left, leaving no maternity or postnatal care for women and babies in the region. What will your administration do to ensure womens medical health and safety in states where abortion is banned or severely limited and medical doctors are leaving? Steve asked about the environment: The Republican response to the climate crisis is at best a wait and see approach, and at worst, denial of the seriousness of the problem, if not contempt for the scientific consensus of how dire the situation is. What is the scientific basis for their refutation of the severity of climate change, or is it nothing more than wishful thinking, delusional belief, and apathy? Daniel asked, How hot will the planet have to get before we do something about global warming? Peter asked, How much money have you taken from fossil-fuel companies in the last 10 years? Krista wrote: Recent years have seen an increase in extreme weather conditions, including hottest-ever days and months. If $200 billion had to be spent to try to minimize the damages of these events moving forward, how would you utilize it to best protect us? June wrote: There was a time when the Republican Party did not want government to intrude into peoples private lives. That seems to have changed. Why? Liz has a question for Nikki Haley: What have you learned about the worlds politics, friendships, and dangers from your years as ambassador to the UN that might not be available to other candidates? Andrew wrote: Mr. Ramaswamy, given your reticence to assist Ukraine in its struggle against Russia, are there any European countries that you think would deserve our military aid should Russia prevail over Ukrainian forces and move on into other former Soviet Bloc nations? Randall asked, Suppose you dont win this election, and then you decide to do something else instead that is really admirable. What would that be? Scott wanted to know about priorities. The United States faces numerous challenges, he wrote. If you had to rank them, what would be your top three? G. asked, What limit, if any, do you believe there should be on gifts to members of the Supreme Court? Parrish asked, What is your plan for addressing the high number of immigrants at our southern borders? Mark wrote, In relation to aid to Ukraine, what is the cost of freedom versus the value of freedom? Judy asked, What books have you read and what have you learned about the world and history? Jessica wondered, Do you think of truth as grounded in objective, physical reality or as grounded in the instrumental and spiritual needs of people? Linda asked, If you support Trump and hes polled much higher than anyone running, why wouldnt you drop out of the race so he could win? JM wrote, If you could change one provision in the U.S. Constitution, what would it be, and why? And Jaleelah wrote: I obviously wouldnt ask a question that any reporter has already posed ... Questions for which most candidates have canned responses prepared are also off the table ... I would really like to ask two questions. I believe that testing candidates commitments to consistency and equality is the only task I am uniquely suited for. If thats allowed, I would pose this set to each candidate individually: Do you support Americans right to defend their homes with force in the event that an invader attempts to destroy or steal their property? Follow-up question: Do you support Palestinians right to defend their homes with force in the event that an invader attempts to destroy or steal their property? American politicians often dance around the fact that they believe Palestinian people are entitled to fewer rights than others. I would like to hear Republican candidates either upend my assumptions about them or confirm my suspicions to my face.