In the broadest possible sense, this is what happened in “This Town” this month:
Republicans undercut the economy and damaged their brand. Americans justifiably blamed the Republican Party for the debt-ceiling fight and government shutdown, which Standard & Poors said cost the economy about $24 billion. The debacle affected the public’s overall opinion of Republicans: Only 32 percent of Americans say they have a favorable impression of the GOP, according to a Washington Post poll, compared to 46 percent for the Democratic Party.
Beyond the moment, the brinksmanship cut against a core Republican mission: To minimize the importance of government. While most Americans were not affected by shuttered federal offices, public parks, research projects and community programs, they were reminded of why government matters. They might even appreciate it a bit more.
A second branding problem: Republicans bill themselves as the fiscally responsible governing coalition. That’s a hard claim to make when a muscular minority of your party wants to default on the nation’s debt.
Democrats undercut their goal of universal health care coverage and damaged their brand. After decades of advocating for health care reform, the Democratic Party seems incapable so far of implementing it. An online federal marketplace (for people living in states that did not create their own health insurance pools) launched Oct. 1, and it’s a bust. Obama and his team are trying to deflect responsibility by blaming others (website developers, the media, the GOP etc.) and minimizing the damage. Their refrain: “Obamacare is more than just a website.” But even journalists sympathetic to Obama, such as Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, understand that the website is crucial to the law’s success and must be fixed.
Launching a website is the easy part. Democrats still must convince young Americans to buy health insurance they don’t think they need — and deal with blowback from countless Americans who will pay more and get less in the new marketplace.
If Republicans helped Americans appreciate government, Obamacare is causing Americans to question it. The decades-old core argument of the Democratic Party is that government can do good things efficiently. Botching health care reform would be a major setback to that brand.
NBC News’ “First Read” summed up the situation this way: “The Obama White House and Democrats have a political problem when it comes to governing (see the Obamacare website), while Republicans have a political problem because they don’t want to govern (see the shutdown). And both sides have used the other party’s problems to mask their own.”
Voters, meanwhile, are turning against both parties. The public’s faith in Congress, the presidency and virtually every political institution is at near-record lows. Sixty-percent of Americans want every member of Congress tossed from office. More people disapprove of Obama’s performance than approve.
There is no reason for Americans to think the GOP will decide to govern, or that Democrats will learn to govern well.
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The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.
"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."
No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."
"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."