Republicans Are In No Position To Mock The Democratic Party Primary Debates

In his Morning Briefing email today, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty disparaged last night’s latest Democratic Party primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders with these words:

‘Yeah, There Was Another Democratic Debate.’ (Stifles Yawn)

Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn basically amounted to Bernie Sanders’s repeating all of his familiar attacks against Hillary and her insisting they’re baseless; and her charging that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, at which point he would counter-charge, “THE GREED AND THE RECKLESSNESS AND ILLEGAL BEHAVIOR OF WALL STREET BROUGHT THIS COUNTRY INTO THE WORST ECONOMIC DOWNTURN” — sorry for the all caps, it’s the only way to accurately capture the volume of Sanders’ high dudgeon voice — “SINCE THE GREAT RECESSSION OF THE THIRTIES, WHEN MILLIONS OF PEOPLE LOST THEIR JOBS AND THEIR HOMES AND THEIR LIFE SAVINGS, YOU’VE GOT A BUNCH OF FRAUDULENT OPERATORS AND THEY’VE GOT TO BE BROKEN UP!”

Below are a couple of highlights, to the extent there were any:

Clinton, last night, defending her judgment: “President Obama trusted my judgment enough to ask me to be secretary of State for the United States.”

Yeah, that line may work really well in a Democratic primary, but you can apply the same “hey, if Obama picked me, I must know what I’m doing” argument to former HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius, VA secretary Eric Shinseki, short-lived Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, all of those wealthy donor ambassadors who knew nothing about the countries where they would represent the U.S . . .

Hillary Clinton: “It may be inconvenient, but it’s always important to get the facts straight. I stood up against the behaviors of the banks when I was a senator.

I called them out on their mortgage behavior. I also was very willing to speak out against some of the special privileges they had under the tax code.”

Bernie Sanders: “Secretary Clinton called them out. Oh my goodness, they must have been really crushed by this. And was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements? So they must have been very, very upset by what you did.”

I’m sorry, does a political debate no longer count as interesting or exciting unless a deranged mob of populist Republicans are flinging feces at each other or comparing the size of their junk?

Are Sanders and Clinton repeating themselves a lot? Yes – as someone who is deluged by campaign emails and briefings from both sides, that much cannot be denied. But at least the things that they are saying actually matter. They relate to foreign policy, trade policy, crime and punishment, campaign finance and the influence of Wall Street.

The argument in the GOP primary has devolved into little more than pledges to revoke ObamaCare faster than the other (“I’ll abolish ObamaCare by executive order at the beginning of my inaugural address!”) and competing visions for exactly how high the wall should be between the United States and Mexico.

Debates on both sides probably shed a lot more heat than light, but anyone who has watched a few of these things in the 2016 cycle would have to admit that more of substance has been learned on the Democratic side than the Republican side this time round – with the same going for 2012 too, when the Republicans treated us to Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain.

There is a group – and I can’t say how large it is, but I know it exists from my time living in America – of liberty-minded conservatives out there who are thoroughly disgusted with the Democrats’ record in office and the general direction of the country, but who will stay home or hold their nose and vote for Hillary Clinton before they see Donald Trump or even Ted Cruz in the White House.

(And to those Trump supporters who protest, I would simply say that fighting back at the establishment and sticking it to the man does not have to mean vocally supporting torture and eroding the constitution. In fact, as Britain’s Nigel Farage discovered, it is actually better when the establishment come at you equally hard for holding mostly reasonable position, as their desperation to kill the challenge to their power is then exposed for what it is).

Though I am not yet a US citizen, if I had voted in the 2008 election I would have voted without hesitation for Barack Obama over the John McCain / Sarah Palin freak show. Many others did the same. So forget trying to attract massive new demographic groups to the side of the Republican Party – maybe the GOP should focus more on simply not alienating those people who will reliably vote for any serious-minded conservative, but who are constantly chased away from the party by the carnival of idiots who keep making it to the primary debates.

You can sneer that it is cultural snobbishness at work (and a bit of it is – though not the majority), but it goes deeper than that. And the good news is that the Republican Party will soon have another chance to reinvent itself for a new era as they spend another presidential term in dreary opposition. Hopefully they will not repeat the mistake of 2008, and actually have serious discussion this time about who they want in the party and who they want out, and whether they want to appeal to the better angels or the darkest fears and prejudices of those who are invited to remain.

That process can begin soon. But in the meantime, let’s not get cocky about the Democratic Party primary process, which has seen left-wing politicians with substantially different worldviews tearing chunks out of each other on policy and substance – which is precisely what should happen.

That is the debate that the GOP should have been having this election cycle were they still a functioning party, and were they not now being forced to pay in a lump for every cynical act of alarmism, obstructionism and posturing they have taken since the inauguration of Barack Obama.


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