The Republican presidential debates have been turning into a reality television show, with only the host missing. Enter Mr. Donald Trump, host of a TV reality show, who will moderate one of the upcoming debates.

The entry of Mr. Trump, himself a short-lived GOP candidate, underscores just how absurd the debates have become. Instead of engaging in serious discussion about the future of America in today’s complicated world, the candidates have been falling over themselves to court a narrow conservative Republican base that does not reflect the thinking of the nation.

Indeed, when confronted with even simple questions about substantive issues, many of them have been showing how woefully unprepared they are for even being considered for the presidency.

There may, however, be method to the absurdity, with some candidates clearly in the race just to gain national exposure and then make millions of dollars writing books. Hey, it’s a living.

But there is another kind of absurdity that is not funny, reflected in the slanderous remarks coming from the current frontrunner, Mr. Newt Gingrich. Not satisfied with proposing that children be put to work as school janitors, he claims that poor children need such work experience because they come from an environment where people do not work.

Mr. Gingrich is equating being poor with not working, an argument proposed earlier by Mr. Herman Cain, who, before dropping out of the race on Saturday, had said poor people have themselves to blame for being poor.

The reality, of course, is that the economic cards are so stacked against poor people that, although they work hard, sometimes at two or more jobs, they still cannot break out of the grinding cycle of poverty.  It is absurd to say that they are to blame and not the system that enriches a miniscule number of Americans and leaves the vast majority in the economic wilderness.

The reality is that Mr. Gingrich is starting to play the race card, just as President Ronald Reagan did when he spouted off against the “welfare queens.” There is already talk about President Barack Obama being the Food Stamp President and the Welfare President.

Such undignified pandering cheapens the democratic process and candidates who indulge in it must be made to pay a price at the polls.