Hillary Clinton Wins the First GOP Debate

By Peter Daou and Tom Watson

For Republicans, 2016 is little more than a desperate mission to "Stop Hillary." For that matter, a fair portion of Republican political strategy over the past two decades has been to stop Hillary. If you don’t believe us, search “GOP stop Hillary” and browse a handful of the nearly 6 million results. There’s a Stop Hillary PAC, Stop Hillary gear, Stop Hillary ad campaigns, and on and on.

In the first prime time GOP debate, Hillary was the dominant candidate. It was a spectacle: ten men mustering every last ounce of negative energy to stop one woman from making history. That mission backfired badly when Sen. Marco Rubio provided one of the strongest rationales for electing Hillary:

“If this election is a resume competition, then Hillary Clinton’s going to be the next president.”

  Graphic from the Wall Street Journal indicating the number of times each candidate attacked Hillary.

Graphic from the Wall Street Journal indicating the number of times each candidate attacked Hillary.

The GOP candidates delivered barbs that were aimed to impress the narrow slice of the American electorate that comprises the base of what was once known as the Party of Lincoln.

That base does not represent the mainstream of American thought. Hillary does. Her policies reflect deep-seated American values and are in strong contrast to the radical ideas of the GOP field. Hillary’s campaign pollster Joel Benenson writes:

No matter how they try to modulate their voices, every single Republican candidate holds positions that are overwhelmingly minority viewpoints in America. They are out of step with the kind of country Americans want for themselves and their children.

On Women’s Health

Jeb Bush says he “misspoke” when he cavalierly suggested that American women don’t need another half billion dollars in public healthcare. But his words betray the truth that the Republican Party is abysmal on women’s issues. Don’t take our word for it, listen to what Republican women have to say:

A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups — including one backed by Karl Rove — paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past.”

The Republican assault on women’s rights and women’s reproductive health is not in tune with mainstream American values. Jeb Bush may protest that his words were unintended, but he mirrors the views of the entire GOP field. In response to Jeb, Hillary said, “He’s got no problem giving billions away to the wealthy and big corporations. I guess women’s health just isn’t a priority for him.”

On Racial Justice

Rand Paul is a favorite of the GOP’s libertarian wing and a hardcore conservative, especially when it comes to racial justice and civil rights. Paul once wrote “a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination” and told Rachel Maddow that he would oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964, arguing that “the government should not be involved with institutional racism or discrimination.”

While Paul’s rhetoric might be a little extreme for the 2016 race, we don’t really expect too many exhortations that “black lives matter” from the Fox stage. Don’t expect leadership from Ohio Governor John Kasich, either. The newest Republican entrant gleefully signed legislation in his state to suppress the voting rights of minorities. And on the secondary set, don’t look for much vision from hopefuls like former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who infamously opined that drugs caused the racist Charleston rampage.

Compare the huge racial blind spot of the GOP field with Hillary’s leadership on the issue. Back in December of 2014, she declared that “black lives matter” and she has called for a sweeping reform of voting rights nationally to make it easier for all Americans to vote.

On Immigration

Billionaire Donald Trump leads all the Republican polls – and he also leads the anti-immigration pack in the harshest language used against immigrants to date. Trump has vowed to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants and accused Mexican immigrants of being rapists. While they may eschew his rhetoric, the other Republicans agree on the main points.

Take former business executive Carly Fiorina, for example. In an environment where a border fence and talk of “illegals” is business as usual for Republicans, you’d think a former tech CEO would have a more liberal view. But Fiorina is running to the right and there’s no talk of a path to citizenship for seeking a better life: “I think the privilege of citizenship should be left to those who worked hard and did it the right way.”

On Workers’ Rights

Considered one of the “top tier” GOP candidates, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a sworn enemy of organized labor and the national standard-bearer for a slice of conservative ideology that opposes collective bargaining and the right of working people to organize for better wages and working conditions. Earlier this year, Walker equated fighting the barbaric cruelty of ISIS with opposing public labor unions. All of his Republican colleagues on the stage agree with him on labor, the minimum wage, and economic fairness for workers.

Compare Walker’s GOP to Hillary, who declared in a speech on economic justice earlier this year: “We need you out there leading the fight against those who would rip away Americans’ right to organize."

On Climate Change

Incredibly, climate change didn't even come up once during the GOP debate. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, considering the entire Republican Party is in denial about one of the greatest threats facing humanity.

“I’m not a scientist” is the mantra of Republican candidates. Take Senator Rubio, for example. He used to believe in climate change and the need for sound public policy. But he’s running for the Republican nomination now, and guess what. Yep, not a scientist

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” 

In contrast, Hillary has proposed ambitious and bold proposals to deal with our planetary crisis. As we wrote recently:

While Hillary leads the fight against climate change, Republicans run away from the challenge, hiding behind increasingly irrational talking points and deplorable anti-science propaganda. CNN is very clear on what's driving GOP thinking: “Many Republicans have an interest in appeasing the deep-pocketed energy industry.”

We could go on forever.

On issue after issue, from LGBT rights to foreign policy, Hillary puts the Republican field to shame, advocating policies that are so much smarter for America, so much saner, so much more in line with American values, that voters have an easy choice should Hillary get the Democratic nomination.

Trump bloviating or Jeb fumbling may make for interesting television. But we are deciding the future of our nation and the only worthwhile takeaway from the GOP's first debate night is that Hillary would make a FAR better president than any of the Republicans. That's precisely why Republicans have spent decades trying, in vain, to "Stop Hillary."

[NOTE: This post was updated on 8/7/15. It was originally titled The GOP's Primal "Stop Hillary" Scream.]


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.