A defining week for American politics, as Democrats sparred and Republicans huddled

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL September 17, 2019

The past week told us a great deal about American politics. Consider all that happened. In Houston, the third Democratic presidential debate argued over healthcare, trade, immigration and suchlike.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the Republican party gathered around their great leader and laughed along as he poked fun at (and spread fear about) “the dangers” of energy-saving lightbulbs and the televisions that will turn off when wind turbines stop spinning.

The Republicans’ three-day policy retreat was about statements (of loyalty), not questions.

The Democrats are completely the reverse. There are ideological disagreements and deep uncertainty about whether a leftward lunge would be attractive enough to win back the White House as well as the Senate in order to bring about real change.

So what does any of this mean – for both parties, for the US and for voters like us?

It’s clear that the Republican Party is no longer about conservatism. It is happily sheep-like, having ceded orthodoxy to a president whose views on trade, entitlements and political decorum bear little resemblance to traditional conservatism.

And it’s also clear that the Democrats now have a greater responsibility to be less disunited.  It’s not clear if they’ll manage this feat but they need to be a broad enough church to pull in left, centrist, and slightly conservative.

The disruption within both parties is apparent and it is Mr Trump who has caused it, as Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report, told The Washington Post: “Democrats are trying to figure out who is the candidate that can play on Trump’s terrain, which is different from any terrain we’ve ever seen in modern politics. For Republicans, the ones who have criticized the president have either lost or left… Distancing yourself from the top of the ticket is almost impossible now.”

This is a fact.

Consider House minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s cravenness after Mr Trump ended his speech: “Mr President, we are with you the entire way!”

And consider Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar’s plea to her party to stop bickering because “a house divided cannot stand.”