At Sunday Debate, Democrats Must Give as Good as They Got

As detestable as the speechifying was at the GOP debate last night, we have to admit, from a purely clinical standpoint, that the Republicans are very, very good at messaging. Almost every candidate, with the exception of Bush and, to a lesser extent, Kasich,were absolutely superb in the art of the soundbite and in appealing to their audience viscerally and emotionally, by wrapping almost every issue in traditional American values (however falsely).

They also understood the immense value of free air time for attacking Democrats. Whether they were coached by the RNC or simply understand it instinctively, they were linked arm in arm in their relentless—and effective—rage against Clinton and Obama.

We can only pray that Democrats were watching and learning for their own debate Sunday (though past debates haven’t been encouraging; see the post “Democrats: Stop Being Polite!“) Democrats must understand who the true opponents are on Sunday—and they must remember not to attack individual candidates, or just “Republicans,” but conservatism.

If the Democratic candidates need some suggestions, here are a few unsolicited soundbites for Sunday, just off the top of our head. We hope Democratic communicators are hard at work thinking of more.

  • As we saw on Thursday, the Republican Party is completely dysfunctional. Pick any candidate on that stage, and at least half of Republicans are afraid of what would happen if he were elected president.
  • Everyone in America should contrast the Republican debate with the president’s State of the Union address. From the president, we heard a dignified, thoughtful, wise message of optimism and working together. From Republicans, we heard nothing but angry, hysterical, mean-spirited, black-hearted pessimism and warmongering.
  • What was once the Grand Old Party has become the Grotesque Old Party.
  • Based on what we all heard from Republicans at the debate, was there anyone on that stage who wouldn’t have America at war within a year of taking office?
  • Judging by the Republicans’ incendiary rhetoric, is anyone confident in how Republican candidates would have handled the most recent incident with Iran? It seems entirely possible they would have turned a peaceable misunderstanding that was over in 24 hours into a deadly act of war with repercussions that would last for months or even years.
  • The leading Republican candidates would not only be wrong for America, they may quite literally be dangerous for America and for the world.
  • Ultraconservatism has joined the Dark Side of American politics.
  • This is a party that confuses warmongering with strength, moralizing with morality, name-calling with political discourse, nativism with patriotism, and restraint and diplomacy with weakness.
  • One of the most important qualities a president needs is a sense of perspective—the ability to reason calmly, act rationally, and know the difference between a problem and a crisis. And Republicans fail that test miserably. Everything we heard from conservatives on Thursday was either reckless or hysterical.
  • Donald Trump keeps saying that we need to bring in the best people to run the government. Well, we should start with the presidency of the United States. Because Donald Trump is one of the least qualified people ever to run for the office.
  • Macho posturing is not the same as leadership.
  • This virulent new form of conservatism does not represent the best of America.
  • In three hours, we heard a lot about the Republican agenda, but there’s one thing we never heard: compassion. That’s an American value, too. They showed nothing but callousness toward Syrian refugees, the millions of people who would lose health insurance if they had their way, the victims of gun violence, Americans in poverty, or the immigrant children they would send back to impoverished countries they don’t even remember. Their agenda doesn’t reflect moral values, religious values, or even simple humanity.
  • If Americans are looking for leadership, they are not going to get it from the Government Shutdown Party, the Jade Helm Conspiracy Party, the Science Denial Party, the Tea Party, the War Party, or the Corporations are People Party.
  • After the last election, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Republicans “have to stop being the Stupid Party.” They have failed completely in that goal.
  • American voters must ask themselves: Are these really the people who should be running a 21st-century superpower? Conservatives every day are proving themselves unfit to lead a great nation.

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