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Election Central

The new nature of conflict in the Republican debates

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson leave the stage following the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas (Credit: AP Photo/John Locher)The final Republican debate of 2015 took place Tuesday night in Las Vegas. While previous debates have touched on a number of subjects, CNN kept the focus primarily on issues of foreign policy and national security. In many ways, by limiting the number of topics addressed, more was actually said by the candidates. They were able to go into greater depth on their policies and, in many cases, offer real answers instead of theoretical platitudes. While the quality and feasibility of those answers can and will be debated heavily over the coming weeks, the chance to gain a measure of insight into what each candidate's presidency might look like was a refreshing shift from the personal attacks and incendiary questions that had largely defined many of the previous debates.

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Syrian refugee crisis: open or close borders?

Syrian refugee child sleeps in his father's arms while waiting at a resting point to board a bus, after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. Bold ideas for helping Syrian refugees and their overburdened Middle Eastern host countries are gaining traction among international donors who were shocked into action by this year's migration of hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians to Europe. (Credit: AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)On the surface, comedian Bill Engvall and 14th century Franciscan friar William of Ockham share little in common. One has particular appeal to Southern audiences, poking fun at their eccentricities. Another was an antagonistic opponent of Thomas of Aquinas, disagreeing with Aquinas's synthesis of faith and reason. But though they have their differences, these two individuals do share at least one commonality: their proclivity for the simplistic. William is known for Ockham's Razor, which finds that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily, or in layman's terms: simpler is better. Engvall is known for his refrain "Here's your sign," in which, when someone asks an asinine question, the other person answers sarcastically, followed by "Here's your sign."

Proponents of simplicity, these two men cognitively wrestle with questions in such a way that moves towards the straightforward, simple answer. But are simple answers always at the end of complex problems?

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What does it mean to make America great again?

Presidential contender Donald Trump, speaks to the media after arriving by helicopter during the 1st first day of the Women's British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, July 30, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Scott Heppell)Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that to be great was to be misunderstood. Shakespeare found that some were born great, a number achieved greatness, while others had greatness thrust upon them. All the while, business writer Jim Collins observed that good is the enemy of great. But what exactly is this misunderstood, ambiguously defined, variously achieved, superlative that goes by great?

Recently, the ambiguous nature of greatness has only been exceeded by its ambiguity. Donald Trump wants to make America great again. But how? A recent trending topic on Twitter drew comments from many under the hashtag #whenAmericawasgreat. Individuals were trolling down memory lane, sharing their belief as to when America was great. But that still leaves us with a few questions: when did America lose her greatness? What is greatness? In a world in which truth changes dependent upon the person, is it even possible to come to an answer?

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