This Single GOP Debate Tweet Sums Up The Maturity Gap Between The Two Parties
On a micro level, the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan was about the policy differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. On a much larger level, however, it was about the maturity gap between the Democratic Party and the GOP. By any measure, the Democratic forum was a more intelligent, sensible, fact-based event than the tantrum-filled Republican debate of a few days earlier, and a single GOP debate tweet sums up why.
You could say that the Democrats focused on policy and the Republicans focused on politics. Sanders and Clinton talked about how to address Flint's water crisis, while Republicans argued about who's doing better in the polls. And yet this formulation understates the difference between the two parties. Quite frankly, suggesting that the Republican debate was about politics is a bit of an insult to the word "politics" (and that's saying something). After all, it's a bit of a stretch to call an argument about Donald Trump's anatomy a matter of politics.
It's probably more accurate to say that the Democratic forum was a debate amongst adults, while the Republican forum was a fight amongst children. Nicholas Thompson, who writes for The New Yorker, encapsulated this sentiment well.
If you hadn't seen either the GOP or Democratic debates, that tweet would bring you 90 percent up to speed. Republicans did indeed talk about Donald Trump's penis size. Trump, after being forced to disavow the Ku Klux Klan (!), did indeed refer to Marco Rubio as "little Marco," and Ted Cruz did indeed urge Trump to "breath" repeatedly in an attempt to calm down the casino tycoon.
The Democrats, by contrast, discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Affordable Care Act, the financial bailout and gun laws. In other words, they talked about issues that actually have some relevance to a presidential campaign. Sure, they took some shots at one another, but like every previous Democratic debate, the vast majority of this campaign was policy-focused.
This is part of a pattern, by the way. Slate's Jim Newell declared the very first Democratic debate "a great ad for the Democratic party," and contrasted it with the "foaming beast that emerges whenever Republican candidates gather to debate." That trend has continued ever since. Consider, say, this moment from a Republican debate in February.
Did you learn anything about the candidates' positions there? Or did it seem more like a couple of kindergartners shouting at each other? I'm guessing the latter. It's telling that even Fox News' post-debate focus group, which almost always has nice things to say about the candidates, turned against the Republicans candidates, describing the debate as "disgusting," "sophomoric" and "despicable." And these were Republican respondents talking!
It's possible that the GOP's conduct at these debates won't hurt the party in the general election. It's also possible that the Republican candidates, simply by being who they are, have damaged their own chances of taking the White House far more than the Democrats ever could hope to. We'll find out in November.