If the ten Republican candidates on stage tonight all hold the exact same positions, is it really even a debate? Every standard old GOP platform policy will be polished up and on display--trickle-down economics, draconian restrictions on women's reproductive health, another doomed push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, blah, blah, blah--repeated ten times over by two handfuls of candidates, each desperately trying to distinguish himself from the rest.
If observers are counting on Donald Trump to bring some new perspectives to liven up the evening's television, they're sure to be disappointed. His positions are virtually identical to the rest of the field--and old ideas don't get any better just because you shout them. As Politico's Roger Simon put it after a Republican presidential forum earlier this week, "the future of the party gathered, and they pretty much looked like the past."
Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, for instance, have all stood in the way of comprehensive immigration reform. They all oppose marriage equality. They all want to gut Medicare. They all oppose giving America a raise by increasing the minimum wage. They couldn't be more out of sync with the broad majority of folks who want an economy shaped by principles of fairness and growth, led by the middle class. These candidates are too busy chasing an elite group of billionaires--the Koch brothers and others--who keep their campaigns afloat.
What does it say about today's Republican Party that the need to appeal to the angriest and most virulent voices in their base forces candidates to adopt such extreme, and extremely homogenous, positions? After the Party's drubbing in 2012, the 2016 nominee is poised to be even more anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-equality, anti-fairness, anti-middle class, anti-progress than Mitt Romney ever was.
Well aware that the GOP policy portfolio is a loser with the broader public, the Republican candidates see their only hope in tearing down Hillary Clinton. By spreading easily-disprovable smears about her emails about Benghazi, about her record at the State Department, they obscure their own unpopular policies. This will surely continue on tonight.
But it won't work. Hillary Clinton has already launched a broad economic plan that will help give the middle class a raise. She's unveiled a bold energy and climate plan that will finally make renewable energy investments on the scale we need to create jobs and curb the menace of climate change. Most important of all, she's fighting back. "We cannot afford to let out-of-touch, out-of-date partisan ideas and candidates strip away all the progress we've made," Clinton said last week.
While she's entirely right, I'm sure that won't stop the avalanche of misinformation tonight--nor will it halt the GOP field's embrace of that extreme policy agenda. The Republican Party's race to the bottom will continue. Time will tell whether it makes for good television tonight, but it's safe to say it makes for bad politics.