AUGUST 23, 2023

9:00 PM: The debate opens with a rugged Sam Elliot-style cowboy voiceover opining on where exactly Wisconsin is, saying, “Some call it the heartland, some call it flyover country, but wherever this backwater hole is, we can all agree on the cool taste of Marlboros and that Australian American billionaire media magnates are awesome.” Fox News moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum welcome the audience. Baier says the candidates are here to lay out their vision for America as they “battle to be the vice president—I mean, hold the highest office, which is the leader of being second in command.” Baier adds that candidates are standing on the stage in order of polling and the results of their pre-debate Voight-Kampff tests: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

9:04 PM: MacCallum introduces the National Anthem, not “The Star Spangled Banner” (a song most often sung by a woman and therefore lacks authority), but the viral sensation “Rich Men North of Richmond,” which she refers to as a song about economic populism. She asks DeSantis why the song is striking a nerve. He nods and says, “Thank you for letting me demonstrate how I speak now, which is in this tone,” while repeatedly gesturing with his arm like an angry Jeopardy! contestant whose buzzer is broken. “We have to reverse Bidenomics, and since I’m the first to answer, I’d like to say the words HUNTER BIDEN.” [An air horn blares.] “This song is what I’ve been told human music is, and I pledge I will not let you down.”

9:06 PM: Baier turns to Chris Christie, who is spending his free time running for the job of president even though the one thing unifying this country is that voters on both sides of the aisle openly, unapologetically despise him. “Why would you be better on the economy than Governor DeSantis?” Christie nods, “I predominantly agree with what he’s laid out, but here’s the thing: we have to sell this vision to the whole country to get the majority of the votes.” The crowd boos. Baier reminds him that when he was governor, New Jersey had the second-lowest credit rating, which was downgraded nine times. “Oh yeah, well, that was the Democrats,” Christie mumbles.

9:16 PM: Former Vice President and Sealab 2021 Captain Murphy impersonator Mike Pence squints his way into the debate, demanding it be his turn. Baier instead continues the line of economic questioning by turning to human oil slick Vivek Ramaswamy. At the mention of Ramaswamy’s name, several audience members scream in what they must equate to a sensation of “delight” but would feel to most people like drunkenly vomiting off a party boat in the middle of Lake Havasu during spring break. Ramaswamy smarms, “I’m not a politician; I’m an entrepreneur. I’m the American dream. A president can’t do everything, but if a president doesn’t completely end the government, privatize, and then profit off your right to be alive, we’ll have lost our way in this country.” Pence responds, “Now, just wait here a second. This brat said presidents can’t do things, but I have peeked into the room where a president was, and he was definitely doing SOMETHING before telling me to go back to bed.” Ramaswamy grins odiously, “Look, old man, all we need to do is drill, frack, burn coal, and embrace nuclear—this is straightforward, bet. If we blow up the planet, we no longer have to regulate it. It’s that simple, bro.” Pence rolls his eyes, does the sign of the cross, and says, “Maybe I should explain; I can go slower.” Ramaswamy interrupts, “Yes, I struggle with reading comprehension.” Others on the debate stage take this as a joke because none of their plans include anything that would address this actual cry for educational help. “I was a conservative before it was cool,” Pence counters, using a phrase fifteen years past its expiration date, which is the closest Pence has ever been to having his finger on the pulse. “Now is not the time for on-the-job training—we don’t need a rookie.” The audience boos, possibly in support of Ramaswamy or possibly because it’s been fifteen minutes and no one has pointed out another group of fellow humans for them to irrationally target with unjustified rage.

9:24 PM: College student Alexander Diaz addresses the candidates, “Polls show that young people’s primary issue is climate change. How will you calm their fears that Republicans don’t believe climate change is real?” MacCallum asks the candidates to raise their hands if they believe that humans are causing a change in the climate. Governor DeSantis angrily interjects, “I DID NOT PRACTICE RAISING MY HAND, I PRACTICED POINTING. I WILL NOT BE MADE TO ALTER GESTICULATIONS. ALL OF US ARE ADULT HUMANS. WE WILL USE WORDS FROM YOUR ENGLISH LANGUAGE.”

9:26 PM: Ramaswamy jumps up on his lectern in excitement, his eyes bright with the glee of someone who called The Joker “brilliant” in online forums for two years straight. “Climate change is a hoax,” he says, “and I’m the only one not bought and paid for, so I can say that.” Christie pulls a long stick out from under his podium and, in a single motion, pokes Ramaswamy off his perch. “I’ve had enough already of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT and is stealing from the last skinny candidate with a weird name: Barack Obama.” Ramaswamy asks Christie whether he wants to hug him like he hugged Obama. Christie, suddenly not as strident, meekly mumbles, “But the Democrats…”

9:27 PM: Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley smiles serenely and says, “Margaret Thatcher.” The audience applauds because that is definitely a person and maybe even a woman.

9:28 PM: Senator Tim Scott chimes in with his best Carrie Bradshaw impersonation, “As a kid, I couldn’t help but wonder, was the American dream even real?”

9:29 PM: North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum smooths his eyebrows and says, “I am just happy to be here. I brought some corn, and I was thinking maybe everyone could sign it. That would be fun.”

9:30: Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announces, “I am also here.”

9:31 PM: MacCallum turns to the issue of abortion, stating that it has been a losing issue for Republicans since the Dobbs decision. “Ambassador Haley,” she says, “you’re a woman.” Haley responds, “I am, thank you. Also, my husband is a man and a veteran. We should be honest with the American people that we do not have enough votes to outlaw abortion nationally. Can’t we agree that we should not jail women for getting an abortion?” This statement is met with confusion by the entire auditorium. Pence breaks the awkward pause, “There’s no reason to jail women as they will burn during the rapture, so until then, we should treat women compassionately by keeping them in cages.”

9:44 PM: The debate switches to the gold standard topic: crime. “As you know,” Christie brags, “when I led New Jersey, I ran a lot of crime—I mean, I prosecuted crime in order to help organize it. Also, HUNTER BIDEN.” [Air horn blares.] Ramaswamy, wandering back on stage after checking the comments on his Letterboxd review of Sound of Freedom, says, “What we need is more cops who can’t get sued. Maybe they could be robot super cops that answer to me. If you need help, you could swipe your Vivek card at any Vivekiosk and spend Vivek-bucks to get protection because people are crazy, but when they have to buy Vivek Air every day, the mental health crisis will decline due to lack of funds, and THAT is freedom.”

9:54 PM: Fox News shows a live camera feed of the Fulton County Jail. The audience, now heavy with Ramaswagger and whatever Budweiser-owned beer the venue’s vendor sells, makes confused snorting, hissing, and laughing sounds. Baier asks, “If Trump is in jail and is the candidate, raise your hand if you’d support him.” Ramaswamy throws his arm up faster than you can say “edgelord.” Other candidates follow, including DeSantis, who lifts his totally human hand after seeing how others do it. Even Christie gives in to peer pressure. He explains, “Look, someone has to stop normalizing this conduct. Whether or not you think the charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of the President of the United States.” The crowd erupts in furious boos. Baier attempts to quiet them by reminding them that the more times they interrupt, the less time they can talk about real issues, like HUNTER BIDEN. [Air horn blares.]

10:11 PM: Attempting to regain control of the audience, Brett Baier moves the conversation to Ukraine, asking, “Regardless of the specifics of the plan, does anyone not support increased funding to Ukraine.” In response, Vivek Ramaswamy pulls out a T-shirt cannon and begins firing bags of Cool Ranch Doritos into the audience. “Fund this, simps!” he screams. Haley responds, “A leader needs moral clarity. Vivek wants to hand Ukraine to Russia, Taiwan to China, and Barbie to Antifa. He should know that is not how you treat your friends.” “FALSE!” Ramaswamy shouts, somehow buzzing in with a game show buzzer. “I’ve never had any friends!”

10:31 PM: Baier mentions how we all want to invade Mexico. Candidates eagerly nod. Tim Scott adds, “Let’s fire the IRS. I just left Yuma, Arizona, a few weeks ago, and the most pressing need of Americans in border towns is ensuring that really rich people can still cheat on their taxes. If they can’t cheat, they’re just going to get madder at the rest of us. So clearly, this is a national security issue.”

10:37 PM: The final topic is education, which all the candidates are passionate about destroying. “Parents know that all you want for your kids is for them to have a more restricted and stupider life than you had,” Nikki Haley says. “Privatize schools, teach kids to build things, get them back in the factories. The children yearn for the mines. Also, it’s been nearly two hours, and I can’t believe I almost forgot to say that I hate trans people. I just realized some people will claim I’m the moderate on this stage, so I want to make sure that I demonize a group of people just trying to live their lives like everyone else. Thank you.”

10:54 PM: Brett Baier asks the candidates how they’d inspire people to be proud to be Americans:

BURGUM: I grew up in a small town. I ride horses. As president, what if we did horse stuff? That could be neat.

HUTCHINSON: Our nation is in trouble. Everything is terrible.

SCOTT: I was a disillusioned young man who grew up mired in poverty, and I stand before you and say the American dream is alive and healthy, because if God made you a man, you have a penis, and you play sports against men who also have penises.

CHRISTIE: Everyone on this stage wants to be the next president, and that only happens if we beat Joe Biden. Or if he, you know, gets “lost” on the way to the store, falls off the back of a truck or something—just an idea.

HALEY: My husband is a combat veteran. I watched him go on a deployment with a bunch of men to a country none of them have ever been just to terrorize and murder locals. If that doesn’t make you proud to be an American, what does?

PENCE: I once had to hide in an undisclosed location from President Trump’s supporters who wanted to hang me. But we did great things in our four years together in the White House. Amen.

RAMASWAMY: Fundamentally, as Americans, we’re all the same, we’re all consumers. We could hate together, we could destroy the earth together, and we could all pay to access Vivek life droplets together. That will unite us in this revolution.

DESANTIS: I’m a veteran. I’m a dad. I’m a husband. I’m also very much a human who is a person. So, no mulligans, this is the last strike, no more batting around the tennis rink. The tentacles you saw earlier were an illusion, and I no longer unhinge my jaw to chew. Also, HUNTER BIDEN. [Airhorn blares, confetti rains down from the ceiling, and Marjorie Taylor Greene runs on stage waving a poster of Hunter Biden naked.]