What If the Democratic Candidates Were Republican and Other Unsafe Thoughts

There are a few things that have been bugging the Rude Pundit lately. The first is this feeling about the Democratic candidates. But wait a second...

Before we go any further here, since this is where our political discourse is right now, nothing said here means that the Rude Pundit won't vote for either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton because to vote for the Republican is nation-destroying insanity and to not vote at all is a bullshit bourgeois indulgence that you can go fuck yourself with. Are we good? Fuck it if we're not...

This feeling. Frankly, the Rude Pundit doesn't like either Sanders or Clinton. He can't explain it. He thinks they'd both be perfectly fine company for a beer, so it's not personal. But maybe he just got used to elections where he felt passionately in favor of a candidate, even, yes, John Kerry. Oh, sure, it's easy to feel passionately opposed to Republicans. They make that shit easy. Start an unnecessary war. Choose a rank idiot as your running mate. Be Donald Trump. It's so easy to oppose and it's so much harder to support.

One test that's useful in any situation is the "What if it was a Republican that did this thing that a Democrat has done?" Oh, sure, we'd like to believe that if, say, a Republican president had gotten a blow job in the Oval Office from an intern and then lied under oath about it, we'd think that his impeachment was as much a bullshit exercise as it was for Bill Clinton. We hope that Democratic members of Congress wouldn't have lost their minds the same way that Republicans did then. (And, let's be honest, some Democrats jumped on the impeachment bandwagon gleefully.)

This ain't about policies as much as it's about ethics and competence. So he wonders shit like whether would he give a happy monkey fuck about Hillary Clinton's email server if she were a Republican. He's inclined to give himself the benefit of the doubt on this one because, really, you have to be pretty hard up to get shit on someone if that's where you make your stand. Perhaps. But what about Republican candidates who are financed by big corporate donors? This is one slippery motherfucker of a slope.

But sometimes it's an even more complicated call. Take, for instance, Bernie Sanders's interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News, a paper that is openly hostile to Trump. The Rude Pundit has written about Trump's objectively stupid chat with the Washington Post's editors. Now we have Sanders being attacked for what some are calling a "disaster" showing that Clinton's opponent in the primaries is "out of his depth."

When you read the transcript or listen to the audio, sure, you can focus in on the "Shit Bernie Oughta Know Backwards and Forwards," like whether laws were broken by Wall Street executives that the Attorney General for a President Sanders might prosecute them for: "I suspect that there are. Yes...Do I have them in front of me, now, legal statutes? No, I don't. But if I would...yeah, that's what I believe, yes. When a company pays a $5 billion fine for doing something that's illegal, yeah, I think we can bring charges against the executives." Dude, this is your issue. If you don't know the laws that were broken, why the fuck are you saying they were broken? That's a slam-dunk question that shouldn't have even caused him to pause.

Or you can focus on his considerably naive answer about the use of drone murder to wage what we might colloquially call "war." Said Bernie, "What I do know is that drones are a modern weapon. When used effectively, when taking out ISIS or terrorist leaders, that's pretty impressive. When bombing wedding parties of innocent people and killing dozens of them, that is, needless to say, not effective and enormously counterproductive. So whatever the mechanism, whoever is in control of that policy, it has to be refined so that we are killing the people we want to kill and not innocent collateral damage." Dude, the people running the drone program have refined it and have decided that collateral damage (kids at a wedding, for instance) is the price of what we might colloquially call "security." How do you eliminate it? Say you'll only kill suspected terrorists when they're alone? Good luck.

It's true, really true, that if a Republican were handling questions like this, the Rude Pundit would say all kinds of shit about how incompetent or dumb or callous that Republican is. To be sure, Sanders is not trafficking in Trump-level nonsense. He doesn't, for example, bring up his hand size or how he's doing in the polls. But Sanders is vague and then dismissive and petulant when he's called on his vagueness. In a single word, he seems old. And that's something this voter has to wrestle with.

There are other moments in the interview when Sanders isn't so vague, like when he talks about grassroots activism and the minimum wage and the way the economy is "rigged" against the middle and working classes. These are his rallying points, the shit that gets the crowds behind him, the "he's talking about me" stuff. It's great and all, but where is the mastery of detail that backs up the rhetoric?

And that is where the divergence is between the expectations of Republicans and Democrats of their candidates. Republicans like Trump and Cruz, and going back to Romney, McCain, and Bush, are dismissive of the idea of explaining how things get done. They just will through pixie magic and forceful personality. Trump has given so few specifics that all his plans boil down to "Donald Trump gets deals done. Believe me." And many do, too many do.

So when Sanders says that he'll be able to get things through Congress because he'll lead people in rising up to demand shit of Congress, well, that's great and we'll see in 2018, but how the fuck does that work in 2017?

Maybe the question isn't then "What if we looked at Democrats like they were Republicans?" but the more frightening "What if we held Democratic candidates to the same low standards as Republicans hold their candidates?"

The Sanders interview isn't a disaster. He'll recover. He'll have huge rallies in the Northeast. But he needs to ready for tough questions, as does Clinton, because Democrats need to demand that those be answered.