During a Wednesday Hardball discussion with former Democratic senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart, Matthews asked about “the ideological direction of the party right now” and added that Bernie Sanders is bringing a kind of 1960s message to Democratic politics.
The Hardball host then transitioned to discuss Hillary Clinton, making a dubious observation: “Hillary Clinton [is] more of a conservative in a sense of more of a traditional politician from the center, center.”
(This wasn't the first time Matthews offered this formulation. On Meet the Press in late May, Matthews insisted: “If Hillary Clinton is a lefty, I didn't know it, okay. She’s not a lefty. She is a centrist politician, a Democratic, a mainstream Democrat.”)
On Hardball, Matthews asked Hart how he would like to see this battle in the Democratic Party shake out. The former Colorado Democrat replied: "Today, I think Senator Sanders is rallying a base – a part of the Democratic base that has not been appealed to because of the so-called centrism that’s been going on and off in the Democratic Party. I've never quite understood what that was, but avoidance, I think, of controversial positions.
Hart added that he thinks “there is a chance for a generational change here.” After Matthews questioned Hart on who he’d support in the Democratic primaries in 2016, the former presidential candidate named Martin O’Malley (D-MD) as his favorite candidate.
Also wanting to get a word in about Donald Trump, Hart largely dismissed the billionaire as a product of high name ID. He noted that, right now, “all you hear about” is the media covering Trump. Hart elaborated: “[T]he polls...often reflect name recognition. You stop somebody on the street, you give them 10 or 15 names, half of those people will pick a name they've heard of. And who have they heard of recently but Donald Trump?”
The relevant portion of the transcript is below.
MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews
July 1, 2015
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the ideological direction of the party right now. Bernie Sanders is making a lot of noise, he reminds me – and maybe you as well – of the '60s. He’s got a ‘60s message, anti-war, questioning the power and elites in this country. Very much a ‘60s message. Hillary Clinton more of a conservative in a sense of more of a traditional politician from the center, center. How do you think it’s gonna go? And where would you want it to go in terms of just that battle, those two profiles?
GARY HART: Well, first of all, let me correct the impression. I was not a '60s person. I experienced the '60s as many others of my generation did. But I was a 21st century person, I was advocating embracing globalization, the information revolution, and new technologies and a wide variety of things of that sort. So, what I was trying to do was look over the horizon.
I think Senator Sanders is rallying a base – a part of the Democratic base that has not been appealed to because of the so-called centrism that’s been going on and off in the Democratic Party. I've never quite understood what that was, but avoidance, I think, of controversial positions. I think there is a chance for a generational change here. I think an awful lot of Democrats and Americans want new leadership. And part of what I comment on in the book is that the lobbying industry, the catastrophic increase in campaign financing and the insider network, the coalescence of an insider network in Washington, is making it that much more difficult.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, who would you vote for if you had to? If the caucuses in Colorado were coming up right now, instead of March 1st next year, between Sanders and Clinton?
HART: Those are – that's not the only choice. I've known Governor O'Malley for 20 or 25 years. More, actually. And I have said I would support him out of loyalty, if nothing else. But I also think he does represent that new generation. Whether he will be able to catch fire, we don’t know yet. But let me comment on the polls, because I've been through this.
HART: They are largely name recognition. The fact that Mr. Trump has gotten so much media coverage – I'm in New York right now, that's all you hear about, is the media covering Trump. Well, the polls as you well know, often reflect name recognition. You stop somebody on the street, you give them 10 or 15 names, half of those people will pick a name they've heard of. And who have they heard of recently but Donald Trump?