I have a confession to make. I didn't watch the Republican debate last night. Well, most of it, that is. You see, I was on vacation with the wife and let's just say I got the distinct impression that my life would be in jeopardy if I devoted any meaningful time to watching it.
So I snuck in about three minutes worth. That was more than enough to convince me that this grand old party is in knee deep shit. How deep? Consider this: the only relatively sane candidates last night - John Kasich and Rand Paul - actually bucked their base's line. Kasich questioned the wisdom of walking away from the Iran deal and Paul said George Bush's decision to invade Iraq was a mistake and he wouldn't be sending any more troops back over there.
You can stick a fork in both of them. You don't go against this base and survive. As of now, both men are collectively polling at about the same percentage as Jeb Bush, which is to say barely alive. Speaking of Jeb, his memorable moment came when he stood before the audience and had the nerve to say his brother kept the country safe. Apparently, ole Jeb forgot that his brother didn't take office on September 12, 2001, but January 20th. So far as I or anyone with half a brain is aware, 9/11 happened on his watch and maybe if he hadn't ignored that memo that read, "Bin Laden determined to strike U.S.," three thousand people wouldn't have had to die.
But then what do I know? I'm just a rational human being who can smell bullshit a mile away. What does it say for the political fortunes of the GOP when their two most qualified candidates - or at least the only two that had the guts to put meaningful proposals with meat on the table - are polling just north of Scott Walker?
Michael Tomasky is right. Hillary Clinton was the winner last night. Or Bernie Sanders in case you're hedging your bets. The fact is the more exposure the Republicans get in these debates, the better the prospects look for whoever the Democratic nominee is. As Tomasky correctly pointed out Democrats already have a built in electoral advantage, and with the GOP's top two prospects not even in the teens, it's difficult to imagine a scenario where they take the White House in 2016.
Of course anything could happen. Who knows, maybe the mothership comes back and beams Donald Trump up. Maybe the wingnuts take a second look at Kasich and decide that nominating a popular governor from a swing state isn't such a bad idea after all. I wouldn't count on either happening. I think Trump is here to stay - mothership or no mothership - and I think the Republican base would vote for a fruit fly before they would vote for Kasich.
And that's the (you'll pardon the Trump pun) huge problem for the Republican Party. While both Hillary and Bernie are talking about substantive, populist issues like income inequality, the GOP is focusing its sights on building a wall on the Mexican border, defunding Planned Parenthood and championing the rights of a woman who apparently doesn't know what the Establishment clause of the First Amendment means. As we speak, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are frantically trying to thwart attempts by members of their own party to shut down the government for the second time in three years. You can't make this shit up.
With 13 and a half months to go till the election, one party is talking about how to make the country work for the vast majority of Americans; the other party is playing to a bunch of xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, racist nativists. One is looking towards the future; the other still thinks it's 1950.
If the rest of the Republican debates go the way the first two have, the Democratic Party is going to laugh all the way to the finish line.