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Commentary: The Democratic Debates, and What Happens Next


In 1932 and 1933 Joseph Stalin deliberately starved between three and ten million residents of Ukraine – no one knows the number for sure – and he tried to keep it secret.  When a later official Soviet census showed a multi-million person decline in Ukraine’s population, Stalin did the only thing he could do.  He had the top officials of the census executed.

So the pollsters recently fired by President Trump because internal polling showed Trump was behind in several battleground states should consider themselves lucky.  But Trump has a point.  People: IT IS A YEAR AND A HALF UNTIL THE ELECTION.  

Polls taken in early summer of 2019 are less than meaningless – they are mischievous.  And the national polls cited by the media do not take into account the Electoral College.  They pretend we have a direct popular vote, which, if we did, would have President Hillary Clinton the subject of impeachment inquiries, not Donald Trump.

The recent Democratic debates also fall into the meaningless-if-not-mischievous category.  I boycotted them, but the media could not boycott, of course, so they did their thing and leeched onto the most dramatic moments, whether or not they had any relationship to an actual presidential campaign, much less a candidate’s presidential qualifications.

Some Democrats participating in the debates could not help themselves either.  Going for the big sound bite and/or hook-up with an identity group, they created empty drama that most charitably was a distraction and most harmfully poked an unnecessary hole in their or someone else’s candidacy.  And it will happen again until all but one or two candidates are penniless and/or exhausted and/or sufficiently discredited.  That’s how Democrats have set up their system this cycle.

Not a few Democrats may be nostalgic for the long-gone days when key Democratic office-holders gathered in a smoke-filled room to anoint, and then clear the path for, a candidate who had the best chance of winning the general election.  The political incorrectness of these seditious thoughts boggles the mind, but they do capture the good sense of Winston Churchill’s wonderful quote about the politics of realism: “The first responsibility of a legislator to his constituents is to get elected.”

In the meantime, President Trump cruises toward an uncontested renomination and, against all odds, a not-ridiculous prospect of reelection in 2020.  Right now all he has to do is follow the advice of another famous European, Napolean, who said: “Never interfere with the enemy when it is in the process of destroying itself.”

Terry Smith is a political science professor at Columbia College and a regular commentator on KBIA's Talking Politics.