By Peter Daou and Tom Watson
The Iowa caucuses are three months away. The 2016 general election is a year away.
The field is set, the weaker candidates have dropped out, and we’re deep into a serious discussion of issues, policy differences and a vision for the future of America … on the Democratic side.
The Republican side is a complete mess. While Hillary solidifies her operation, moves up in the polls, connects directly with voters, works for endorsements, and rolls out a robust policy platform, the Republican hopefuls descend further into personal sniping, dueling taunts, and almost comical disarray. While Bernie Sanders continues to bring strong progressive principles to the fore, Republican candidates spew uninformed and unserious ideas, from re-litigating the Holocaust to advocating for the mass deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members.
We don’t put too much stock in polls at this stage, but it’s hard to avoid the story polls are telling for the GOP. As billionaire bully Trump and serial fabricator Ben Carson combine for fully 50 percent of the GOP electorate, a herd of single digit candidates jibe and spar at seven, eight, or nine percent. Bush hits Rubio, who hits Bush back. Ted Cruz hammers them both. Carly Fiorina makes stuff up at debates, only to have to walk it back days later. Chris Christie desperately and unsuccessfully tries to reclaim a shred of his 2012 hype. The other candidates scramble for fleeting attention in a field that shows few signs of getting smaller. Republicans are now in full revolt – against themselves.
The simplicity and strength of the Democratic field is sparking a meltdown on the right.
Nothing better illustrates the GOP chaos than their collective freak-out over the supposed unfairness of the recent CNBC debate. Expressing a primal fear of debate moderators surely doesn't telegraph your capacity to deal with dictators, tyrants and terrorists.
Bereft of compelling ideas, Republicans are already reaching for their pander of last resort: blaming the so called “liberal” media for their woes. If anyone believes that Republicans have been treated more unfairly by the media than Hillary Clinton has, we have a bridge to sell them.
When it comes to policy, Republicans don’t differ much. They all favor drastically smaller government (except when it comes to controlling women’s bodies), lower taxes for the rich, scapegoating immigrants, denying climate change, and making guns easier to get. They resist advances in civil rights and they’re out of touch with the vast social changes that are making us a more tolerant and inclusive nation.
They’re also united in their antipathy toward Hillary. A huge part of the GOP strategy has been to prevent Hillary from getting the Democratic nomination. That’s why the Benghazi Committee leakers partnered with their friends in the media a year before the general election. That’s why billionaire-funded conservative groups have been working to pit Democrat against Democrat in the early going and to inject poll-tested and focus grouped anti-Hillary frames into the national bloodstream.
Now that this strategy seems less likely to block Hillary from the nomination, Republicans are focusing more on their own internal primary battle. And things are getting ugly fast. They say never get in the way of a self-immolating political opponent, so we won’t offer any advice to our GOP friends.
But we will offer a note of caution to Hillary supporters and Democrats: don’t get too comfortable. While the GOP wage an increasingly cantankerous internecine struggle over the next three to six months, eventually the party will have a nominee. And then they’ll turn all their fire back to the Democratic champion.
She’ll be ready. So will we.
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.