There were any number of excellent moments in last night’s debate: Ted Cruz’s explanation of how tariffs would affect consumers, Marco Rubio’s riff on what should have been, but was not, asked of Cuba in return for diplomatic recognition, and many more. If the ordinary rules applied, it would have been an excellent night for Rubio and a good one for Cruz. We are in an alternate reality now.
But there was one moment in which all candidates failed utterly. They were asked about the violent incidents at Trump rallies. In a recent example, a Black Lives Matter protester was sucker punched by a Trump supporter as he was being led out of the stadium by police. The assailant, who was also captured on video threatening to kill the protester next time, has been arrested. Trump issued a bland reproof of violence and shifted quickly to praise of police, and an “explanation” that people are very angry about the state of the nation. What? Does that justify violence? Neither Rubio nor Cruz took the opportunity to say that Trump is clearly fomenting violence (“I want to punch him in the face” etc) and that encouraging violence is the worst kind of demagoguery. I suppose some will say that this is the price we must pay not to alienate Trump supporters. If you take that view, you are slandering the vast majority of Trump supporters shirking the responsibility to uphold decency.