Let's call the first GOP debate, and the debates to come, what they really are. Last week, in an effort to further conflate entertainment with politics, Fox News packed ten candidates onto a stage to answer a meandering set of questions, designed to fulfill an agenda, and not to start a discussion. Let's not call it a debate.
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BARCELONA - For decades, political debate in Europe between conservatives and the left focused largely on economic institutions and policies. In this bi-polar system, the parties differed on the nuances of economic policy, but broadly agreed on democratic values, the European project, and the need to adapt to and manage globalization, rather than reject it wholesale. But, with the growing success of appeals to identity and renewed ethnic or religious nationalism, that is changing. Are the ghosts of the early and mid-twentieth century returning?
It is already conventional to name the former party leaders Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage as the biggest losers of the British general election. But this is to understate the abject defeat suffered by some Keynesian economists, and in particular the Nobel prize winning former Princeton professor Paul Krugman.
American observers of UK politics would do well to see the U.S. parallels here. The dilemma facing the UK Labour Party is basically the one faced by Democratic presidential candidates as they seek victory in 2016. If either major UK political party fails to find its way, the US stands poised to lose its most reliable European ally.
This week saw the first conservative government reelected to a second term in the U.K. since Margaret Thatcher's. Returns showed David Cameron winning easily, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats losing big. But the other clear losers were the pollsters, along with anyone who believed their predictions of a virtual tie. Pollsters are not exactly on a roll. In March, polls wrongly showed a dead-heat in Israel between the Zionist Union party and Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud, which, in fact, won handily. And here at home, polls in the 2014 midterms overestimated Democrats in Senate races by four percent. As three new candidates -- Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson -- tossed their hats into the crowded presidential ring this week, it's a good time to remind ourselves about the folly of breathless poll-obsessed political coverage. It's the people, not the polls, that matter. And focusing on the horse race at the expense of debating real issues makes losers of us all.