Asked last night to name “enemies” of which she was “proud,” Hillary Clinton rattled off a list that included “Republicans.”
I haven’t seen a great deal of discussion about this in the aftermath of the debate, and I must say that I’m slightly surprised about that. It’s one thing to say you’re proud that, say, the NRA is your enemy; you can always explain that you respect gun owners and the Second Amendment but oppose the “crazies.” But the other majority political party in the country? The party for which almost half of voters pull the lever? That’s not smart.
Why not? Well, because it opens you up to an obvious attack. When Clinton said it, I could just hear Marco Rubio saying this in a presidential debate:
Secretary Clinton, you said during the primaries that your biggest enemy was “Republicans.” I think that your comment provides the voters with a perfect example of how we differ. I’m a Republican, and, on some of the issues at least, I have some disagreements with the Democratic party. But it is not my enemy. Those who vote for it aren’t my enemies. They’re my neighbors, my colleagues, my friends, the men and women who teach my children, the people I see every day all around my state. On November 8th of this year, I will be asking all Americans for their votes — Democrats, Republicans, independents, everybody. For far too long now we’ve had a political class that refuses to work together; that draws lines around itself based upon its party affiliation; that forgets why it was sent to serve. I want to end that. I want to lead this country into the future as the president of everybody — even those who aren’t sure about me. If you believe that half of the country is your enemy — if you believe that a majority of the people you’ll have to work with are your enemy — you won’t be able to do that. I will.
Is that largely saccharine nonsense? Probably, yes. But don’t underestimate just how well it connects (see: Obama, Barack).
To watch how quickly debate viewers turn off when candidates start attacking one another is to understand how keenly most voters think of themselves as being above the fray. Sure, the line may have endeared Hillary to the crowd last night. But if she’s going to run as an out and out partisan who regards the other side as a nuisance that needs destroying, she’s opening herself up to profitable attack.