NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Much commentary on Wednesday night's second debate of Republican Party presidential candidates has focused on who gained and who lost among the candidates. Considering that nearly all are in single digits in the polls, this is not the main story. What is more striking is how out of touch and unrealistic the entire group is. It is a symptom of the failing Republican brand.
A recent Pew poll shows that those with a favorable view of the party have dropped from 32% from 41%since the beginning of 2015. Most startling in the details of this poll is that approval has fallen most sharply among Republicans.
It is easy to see why. Increasingly, Republican strategists detach the message from action. They think it is effective to pander to whatever they think will excite the average view of the average Republican voter, regardless of how unrealistic the promises become. This only helps scare liberals, mobilizing the Democratic base, while frustrating Republican voters because their leaders never can deliver on their purely emotive promises.
The 2016 election should favor the Republicans, according to the typical American cycle of alternating parties in power, but they have discounted their brand by emphasizing issues on which they cannot deliver when in power. Though the party won both houses of Congress in 2014, it has little to show for the power it now wields. It is no wonder that support for the party is falling fastest among its core voters.
Many of the Republican candidates for president seem to blame their leadership in Congress for not being tough enough. But they would be better to consider the political effect of making unreasonable promises, of exciting emotions they cannot fulfill.
One of the questions in the debate Wednesday night was about defining leadership. Most on the stage emphasized toughness. Maybe that works in action movies, but in real life leadership is about telling people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. It is about educating the voters to realities that may not be obvious to them. By that standard, all the Republican candidates failed. They all cast blame and pander rather than lead.
Vast amounts of emotive energy are now being spent on a handful of minuscule issues that have very little to do with the broad and enduring concerns of a President. Mobilizing the emotions of the voters through hysterics like the attacks on Planned Parenthood may make good theater, but they ignore what really matters for most people most of the time.
The foreign policy debate largely revolved around a misdirected blame game. Iran is blamed for all Middle Eastern chaos despite the fact that Iran has been fighting the same enemies as the U.S. since 9/11: not just vague "Islamic" extremism, but specifically the Sunni extremism of ISIS and Al Qaeda that attacks Iran and its Shiite allies even more vigorously that it attacks the U.S. During the debates only Rand Paul, to his credit, made a feeble attempt to explain this. The U.S. cannot actually confront Iran, because its major "successes" in the region. Iraq and Afghanistan depend on Iranian cooperation for whatever stability they maintain. The government the U.S. put in power in Baghdad is more beholden to Iran than to the U.S.
China is blamed for the American trade deficit, despite the fact that it is many major American corporations that are profiting from China's rise. These powerful interests, many of them donating to both parties, guarantee that any blame leveled at China will not be translated into real action. Not only that, but Washington depends on Chinese purchases of Treasuries for financing its growing deficit. Essentially, China is lending the U.S. the money to buy its goods. Curtail this relationship, and Americans will pay more to borrow and the costs of everything will rise.
Consequently, if the Republicans actually win on a platform of blaming China, Iran and Russia for the world's problems, they will not look "tough" when, just like the Democrats, conciliate these three rather than pushing them into a corner as the entire Republican field seems so eager to do. Corporate America will not tolerate such a recklessly misdirected foreign policy.
Immigration is another area where Republican vitriol is so out of sync with the needs of their corporate sponsors that they must retreat when in office. Donald Trump has the most outrageous proposal. He proposes to deport 12 million illegal immigrants. This would obviously devastate American agriculture and manufacturing, so it is utterly ridiculous. Yet, rather than being brave enough to say this, the other candidates raised feeble objections like the lack of sufficient police to accomplish the task. It just makes them look spineless.
If the Republican pack were really serious about the agenda it promotes, it would have to confront the corporate powers that support it. Of course that is most unlikely, so instead it must continue trying to mobilize voters with reckless promises it knows it cannot fulfill. Voters may have shorter memories than funders, but eventually hypocrisy becomes so obvious it discredits the Republican brand.