On Thursday and Friday, several pundits took to MSNBC to warn that Democrats moving farther and farther to the left in the debates were “playing into this socialism theme that Donald Trump has come up with” and giving the President a “huge gift” for his reelection campaign. Some even declared Trump the winner of the debates.
Appearing on MSNBC in the 11:00 a.m. ET hour on Friday, Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin sounded the alarm about Democrats pushing for government-run health care and eliminating the private insurance industry: “Listen, I think this is a terrible mistake for Democrats....for the minimal benefit you get in reassuring the left in the Democratic Party, you risk alienating a whole segment of America.”
She further pointed out that such far-left positions would only help Trump:
And worse, playing into this socialism theme that Donald Trump has come up with. I don’t agree with this notion that whatever you say, he’s gonna say “socialist.” There’s sometimes when you lead with your chin and you give him an opening. And I fear for the Democrats that this may be one of them.
On the subject of all the Democratic candidates during Thursday night’s debate supporting health care for illegal immigrants, Rubin fretted: “Donald Trump is gonna go to town with that.”
The discussion prompted fill-in anchor Chris Jansing to ask former Hillary Clinton campaign aide Philippe Reines: “Do you think that that debate last night helped Donald Trump?”
On Thursday, as part of a panel during the 9:00 a.m. ET hour, MSNBC Republican Charlie Sykes panned the performance of Democratic candidates at Wednesday night’s debate: “Elizabeth Warren and other candidates doubled down on the fact that, yes, Medicare-for-all means you are going to abolish all private medical insurance in this country. Trust me, that is a huge gift to Donald Trump.”
He called out other extreme policy positions: “They’re talking about, you know, massive tax increases. You’re talking about registration licensing, possible confiscation of guns.”
Sykes then worried:
So in terms of winners and losers, I have to tell you, the Trump people are very, very happy this morning, the way that the Democrats are positioning themselves outside – what they regard as outside the mainstream of American politics. Because again, Donald Trump doesn’t need to win this election, he needs for Democrats to lose it.
Minutes later, NBC News political reporter Jonathan Allen agreed with Sykes’s assessment:
The Democrats are running around, and like last night, for instance, you saw them moving so far to the left that they were walking in circles, right? Like they just – just kind of listing left and left until they got in circles....And that’s what Trump is banking on. All those fights happened last night, you know, with people moving to the left, and he’s sitting there....his people are sitting there thinking, “Please, please, please have more Democratic debates that look like this,” because it’s an opportunity for them to paint the Democrats as being out of touch.
At the end of the segment, Sykes and Allen both concluded Trump was the real winner of the debate “because of this move to the left.”
When even MSNBC’s anti-Trump guests are complaining about Democrats blowing their election chances in 2020, the party has really gone off the deep end.
Here is a transcript of Rubin’s remarks on June 28:
11:10 AM ET
CHRIS JANSING: This, Jennifer, is an issue with a clear dividing line, Medicare-for-all, no Medicare-for-all, should private insurance continue, something that by the way is very popular with the vast majority of people who actually have private insurance. So on an issue standpoint, I wonder what your take was.
JENNIFER RUBIN [WASHINGTON POST OPINION WRITER]: Well, first of all, this has been a problem in the past and I think it’s still a problem for Senator Harris, which we don’t really know whether she’s gone the full Bernie, Elizabeth Warren route, which is absolutely, for all intents and purposes except for cosmetic surgery or a supplemental plan, you’re not gonna have a choice, you’re gonna be on Medicare. I think that’s where she’s headed, but I’m not sure. And she’s been able to kind of skate through this.
Listen, I think this is a terrible mistake for Democrats. When people out there hear Medicaid-for-all or Medicare-for-all, they say, “Great, that sounds wonderful. I know Medicare, that’s great.” And then when they hear that they’re going to lose their current, private insurance, some of which, if you’re a union member, is very, very generous, they say, “Wait a second, wait a second, I’m not sure I want to get into that.”
So for the minimal benefit you get in reassuring the left in the Democratic Party, you risk alienating a whole segment of America. And worse, playing into this socialism theme that Donald Trump has come up with. I don’t agree with this notion that whatever you say, he’s gonna say “socialist.” There’s sometimes when you lead with your chin and you give him an opening. And I fear for the Democrats that this may be one of them. Ironically the other raise- your-hand moment which I think is equally, if not more so troublesome, was when they asked if they would cover illegal immigrants. And Donald Trump is gonna go to town with that.
JASNING: He immediately tweeted about it and made the point that, “Look, you know, should we be doing this stuff at home first?” He called it the “end of the race.” Look, Philippe, this is nothing new, right, the problem every party faces. If you’re a Republican candidate you run in the primary to the right and then you have to try to moderate, so now you’re running on the left and you have to try to moderate. But let me read to you from David Brooks column this morning: “I could never in a million years vote for Donald Trump. So my question to Democrats is will there a candidate I can vote for? If Democrats run a populist campaign against the business elite, Trump will run a broader populist campaign against the entire educated elite. His populism is more compelling to people who respond to such things. Right now we’ve got two parties trying to make moderates homeless.” Do you think that that debate last night helped Donald Trump, Philippe?
PHILIPPE REINES: I don’t. And I’ll tell you why. Because on the whole the last two nights have shown that among the 20 people there are a number of them that will make great nominees and that can beat him. On his specific tweet, I agree with Jennifer by and large, but if he wants to fight over who treats people better, who wants to provide health care, who wants to provide middle income tax cuts, then bring it on.
Here is a transcript of Sykes and Allen on June 27:
9:04 AM ET
STEPHANIE RUHLE: Mr. Sykes, I must turn to you. Because before the debate, you wrote a piece titled, “Dear Democrats, here’s how to guarantee Trump’s re-election.” You were essentially warning candidates if they shift too far to the left they will give the next election to the President. So last night was their first night out there, what did you think?
CHARLIE SYKES [MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR]: Well, it looked like everybody read my article and decided to ignore each and every point that I made. Because that was a debate about who is moving farther left? I mean, I’m sitting making notes as the night went on. I think one of the key things was Elizabeth Warren and other candidates doubled down on the fact that, yes, Medicare-for-all means you are going to abolish all private medical insurance in this country. Trust me, that is a huge gift to Donald Trump. They’re talking about, you know, massive tax increases. You’re talking about registration licensing, possible confiscation of guns.
Look, these are all issues that are winners for the Democrats, but there seems to be this movement to say, “How do we take these winning issues and turn them into losing issues in a general election?” So in terms of winners and losers, I have to tell you, the Trump people are very, very happy this morning, the way that the Democrats are positioning themselves outside – what they regard as outside the mainstream of American politics. Because again, Donald Trump doesn’t need to win this election, he needs for Democrats to lose it.
9:09 AM ET
RUHLE: Charlie, you thought last night was a win for President Trump because of the Progressive messaging. Was it also a win because there wasn’t much messaging about him? Just think about this, in the last week alone, we narrowly avoided a military strike against Iran, the President was accused of rape, and as of yesterday, we know that Robert Mueller, who put President Trump’s campaign manager in jail, is now gonna testify. None of that was touched. How big of a win is that for the President?
SYKES: I think, by the way, that was extraordinary, the fact that they did not go after Donald Trump more. And this is part of the problem, that you have all of these stories that ought to be dominating the debate and dominating the news, but the Democrats cannot resist the temptation to form the circular firing squad. As a result, you know, look, I mean, think about the things they could have talked about. And this debate really should be the audition for who can take on Donald Trump.
And, you know, again, the reason I think it’s a win is that they’re taking positions that will get them through the progressive primary but are going to be like an albatross in a general election. Look, Medicare-for-all right now polls very well until people are told it takes away your private insurance. One poll after another shows people do not understand that when they’re told that, the numbers change very dramatically. Trust me, if Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders is the nominee, the Republicans will spend half a billion dollars telling people that. And that's going to be an issue for millions of voters who may be totally disgusted by Donald Trump and are willing to vote against him but just cannot bring themselves to vote for somebody who’s going to take away the private health insurance of millions of Americans, which is why that was such a decisive moment at the debate last night.
9:13 AM ET
RUHLE: Jonathan, what’s your take? A moment ago, Charlie was saying if Democrats go very progressive now they’ll be haunted by this in the general. How come Republicans don’t face the same thing? Last night, Lindsey Graham tweeting, “Watching this debate, I’m thinking of a third term for President Trump.” Well, it was two years ago Lindsey Graham on Twitter saying that the President was a disgrace, called him a kook, said if Donald Trump got the Republican nomination, they’d get wiped out. That hasn’t harmed him.
JONATHAN ALLEN [NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER]: You know, it hasn’t. But I mean, the Republicans don’t have a primary right now. They are unified behind their president, what is it, you know, 90% of Republicans approve of the job Donald Trump is doing, and they’re not having that debate within their party. You just don’t see, for the most part, these policy debates. You see it a little bit on the edges. The President wants to strike Iran and then you see some pullback. But for the most part, they’re not having those debates.
The Democrats are running around, and like last night, for instance, you saw them moving so far to the left that they were walking in circles, right? Like they just – just kind of listing left and left until they got in circles. And they kind of have to do that, right? If you are Elizabeth Warren and you’re going out there and telling people that you need to fundamentally –
RUHLE: Do they have to do that? The Twitter Democrat would tell you but the Democrats that won in the midterms would tell you something else.
ALLEN: It depends on who you are, but if you’re Elizabeth Warren, you’re out there saying you have to fundamentally restructure systems in order for working and middle class people to get ahead and then you go out there and go, “Well, Medicare-for-all, I’m not – no, no, that’s not too much.” Like that’s a problem. It’s not within your message. And if you’re trying to steal Bernie Sanders’ people, which is basically what she’s trying to do right now, how do you get through that primary where you go, “You know what, I’m going to be like light beer, I’m going to be, you know, less filling and maybe taste great. It doesn’t – it doesn’t work. So I think she kind of had to go there. Whether that works in a general election or not is a big question.
And that’s what Trump is banking on. All those fights happened last night, you know, with people moving to the left, and he’s sitting there, I don’t know if he’s watching it on the way to Osaka, but he’s sitting there and his people are sitting –
RUHLE: He’s watching it, tweeting that it was “boring.”
ALLEN: Right. His people are – he was tweeting it was boring, whether or not he was watching it, right? But his people are sitting there thinking, “Please, please, please have more Democratic debates that look like this,” because it’s an opportunity for them to paint the Democrats as being out of touch. And when they don’t talk about Trump, they are not contrasting with him in the ways that they should be to make the argument that he shouldn’t be president.
9:17 AM ET
RUHLE: Charlie? I think you’re going to go Trump won.
SYKES: Yes, I am going to say that, and very reluctantly, because I think it’s very important to defeat Donald Trump, but yes, he did, because of this move to the left. Loser, no question about it, Beto, who I think is toast.
ALLEN: Yeah, I think Trump won and it was only a question of who was going to take the kill shot on O’Rourke last night. It ended up being Castro. So a second “W” goes to Castro. Warren did pretty well, too. But O’Rourke, definitely the loser last night.