I can’t say much about the Democrats’ debate because I didn’t see it; it wasn’t broadcast in Spain, where I’m on vacation. From all the commentaries I’ve read, Hillary Clinton did extremely well, and Bernie Sanders also performed well. That’s really all that matters—the other candidates are irrelevant. And I’m glad that both Hillary and Bernie looked good. I’m glad that Hillary shined, because she is the almost certain Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, and it’s critical that a Democrat win. But I’m glad Bernie Sanders is challenging her and I hope he continues to have a strong voice; the Democratic debate is more vital and meaningful for his presence.
So, writing from my hotel room in (partly) sunny Barcelona, I’m going to punt with a long but very worthwhile quote of somebody else. You have seen me write, repeatedly, that decent governance in these United States will be impossible until there is a fundamental transformation in the Republican Party, and that that transformation will very likely require a succession of crushing electoral defeats of the GOP. I have also faulted the mainstream media for refusing to acknowledge the Republicans’ radicalism. Now, you can hear the same things from Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, whose 2012 book, It’s Worse Than it Looks, I continue to recommend as a great primer on the current state of US politics:
There is no clear path out of our current distemper. The solution, like the diagnosis, must focus on the obvious but seldom acknowledged asymmetry between the parties. The Republican Party must become a conservative governing party once again and accept the assumptions and norms of our Madisonian system. That will likely require more election defeats, more honest reporting by the mainstream press and more recognition by the public that the problem is not “Washington” or “Congress” or “insiders” or politicians in general.
The burden is on the GOP because they are currently the major source of our political dysfunction. No happy talk about bipartisanship can obscure that reality. Unless other voices and movements arise within the Republican Party to change its character and course, our dysfunctional politics will continue.
(Thanks to the Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore for alerting me to this interview with Mann & Ornstein, which is well worth reading in full.)