“The GOP was Right to Fear Clinton”

by teacherken –

KEENE, NH - APRIL 20: Democratic presidential hopeful and former U.S. Sectetary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to employees of Whitney Brothers, an educational furniture manufacturer, at a round table discussionon April 20, 2015 in Keene, New Hampshire. This marks Clinton's first major political event in New Hampshire after announcing her campaign for president a little over a week ago. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

So says Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson in this Washington Post piece.

Consider his opening:

Before all the craziness — before Donald Trump and Ben Carson and the need for two-tiered debates — Republicans’ biggest fear about next year’s election was having to run against Hillary Clinton. As we saw Tuesday night, they were right to worry.

He says her performance was like Lebron James playing in a pickup basketball game.He gives Sanders props for his authenticity, for being on point on issues that matter to Democratic – and most American – voters, although he thinks Sanders stumbled badly on his answer on gun control (which is a question for which he should have been prepared).

I am going to use this diary first to explore Robinson’s column, and then to offer my personal reaction to the debate.  If not interested in what I have to say, feel free just to follow the link to the column.  I won’t be offended.

The main event was Clinton vs. Sanders, and what should worry Republicans is that the two leading Democrats spent so much of the evening on the issues Americans say they care about. To cite one representative survey, a recent CBS poll asked registered voters what they most wanted to hear the candidates discuss. “Economy and jobs” came in first at 24 percent, while “immigration” was a distant second at 11 percent and “foreign policy” third at 10 percent.

Robinson contrasts this with the focus of the Republican debates, which seem too much oriented towards a narrow slice of the Republican primary electorate with its focus on Planned Parenthood, opposing the minimum wage, and how tough they can be against illegal immigration.  Here I note that f these three issues, the only one that can potentially be tied back to the national concerns is the last, if framed as how illegal immigrants cost us jobs (not really) or tax dollars in benefits (untrue, because they contribute more than they cost since they cannot collect Social Security or Medicaid or unemployment benefits).Robinson then makes what I think is a very astute observation:

The GOP establishment candidates have no economic message to offer beyond the party’s standard prescription of tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation for businesses. That may be why the front-runners are Trump and Carson, who have never held public office and whose economic prescriptions are more populist.

I would expand on this.  Social activists are angry at traditional politicians for failing to address their concerns.  That is part of the appeal of outsiders.  And the Republican party IS “tone deaf” on how economic issues are currently playing out.  That is obvious in the response to Sanders.Robinson lists in the form of questions the kind of issues that can address the angst of the vast and suffering middle class of this country:
– a higher minimum wage
– a mandate for  paid family leave
– assistance in paying for higher education,
– free tuition at public universities
– trade/tax policies that encourage keeping jobs in the United States

He then closes with this pointed paragraph:

The Democratic candidates understand that these are the issues people care most about. Trump gets it, too, in his own bombastic way. A party that goes into the election without a compelling message on jobs and incomes — I’m talking to you, GOP establishment — is begging to lose.

I think Robinson is very much on point, both on the effectiveness of Clinton’s presentation and the challenges the two main Democratic candidates present to the Republicans.But I think there is more.

I thought Clinton won the debate, because she reestablished herself as progressive enough for the vast majority of the party, and because of her clear skill in handling debates.  The only stumble I saw was the expression that she represented Wall Street.  That could be put into a soundbite out of context.  It would have been better to say that Wall Street is a major industry employing tens of thousands of people she represented as a Senator.

I think Sanders did very well, but I don’t think ultimately it matters.  For starters, I think Clinton’s performance was sufficient to close the door on a Biden entry, which is about the only thing I can see scrambling the race.

Of greater interest to me, I find it hard to imagine ANY of the Republican candidates being effective in a one-on-one debate with the Clinton I saw on stage.

Consider just a few examples

–  Carson would come across as – sorry – a total ignoramus on many issues

–  Rubio would come across as immature and lacking sufficient depth

–  Trump would come across not only as a blowhard, but as a sexist (as well as a racist)

The most skilled debater among the remaining Republicans is Ted Cruz, but my sense is that the impression many people get from watching him on TV is that he is annoying and irritating in his tone of voice and his presentation.  And when it comes to some of his positions, well, I have full confidence in Clinton’s ability to really deflate him in the format of presidential debates.

Further, while they have had Fiorina on stage, debating her is not like debating Hillary.  Ask yourself, did you ever see Fiorina smile or laugh during her time in either debate?  Hillary’s smile and laugh can be infectious.  While she may be reserved to some degree in large public settings, there is a real warmth to her.

She is thoroughly prepared.  And we should remember how quick on her feet she can be.

Please note – in offering these words I am not endorsing Clinton.  This is merely my analysis of what I saw.

And I offer the words primarily as an addition to what Robinson wrote.

Friends of mine think that if Trump crumbles that Cruz will be the nominee.  I don’t know about that.  I do think that if he were the election would be enough of a wipeout that there is even an outside chance we could pick up the House despite how gerrymandered it is.  It could be of the dimension either of the election of 1964 or that of 1974 in the aftermath of Watergate.

But that is still a long way off.  And I increasingly think it possible Trump will be the nominee.  The longer there are so many candidates in the race against him, the more likely that he can pile up large numbers of delegates, either if the threshold for delegates is even 10 or 15% or if the contests are winner take all.  In fact, unless the Republican insiders can coalesce around one candidate to stop him, it is quite easy to see a scenario where he becomes unstoppable.

In the meantime, the Republicans need to be very careful in how they question Mrs. Clinton next week.  In her previous times of testifying before hostile Congressional Committees, going back to when she was First Lady, those questioning her have found out how skilled a presentation she makes, and how effective she is when the American public is watching.

Make of all this what you will.

I am going to go and teach one more day of school this week.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Posted By: Keith

Writer, political junkie, rabid rock music fan, amateur gardener, astronomer and ornithologist, cook extraordinaire, sipper of fine wine and, more than once, the funniest guy in the room.

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