Analysis: The Associated Press (AP) is reporting today that Hillary Rodham Clinton revised history in the Democratic debate when insisting she’s not a flip-flopper on a trade deal she promoted as secretary of state but turned against as a presidential candidate.
Bernie Sanders overstated the share of wealth being taken by the richest Americans, a subject that goes to the core of his campaign.
The AP took a detailed look at some of the claims in the debate and how they compare with the facts. That review reflects a Gallup Poll earlier in the month asking how people in each party view government.
The AP writes:
CLINTON on the Trans-Pacific Partnership: “I did say, I hoped it would be the gold standard'” of trade agreements.
In a November 2012 speech in Australia, she declared the Trans-Pacific deal “sets the gold standard in trade agreements,” a sentiment she echoed in many venues.
Clinton said in the debate that when she looked at the final agreement last week, “it didn’t meet my standards.”
The final agreement, however, dropped or changed some provisions that liberal activist groups — the wing of the party she is assiduously courting at this stage of the campaign — had strongly criticized.
In an early October poll, Gallup reported that the role of government remains the key source of party differences and this is abundantly clear during the respective party debates. Granted that each party is pandering now to their respective base with more moderate positions to follow in the general election, but “principles” are certainly the foundations of difference between parties.
Gallup reports that Democrats and Republicans have almost precisely opposite views of the purpose of government in today’s society. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats tend to believe the government should take active steps to try to improve the lives of its citizens. The same percentage of Republicans tilt toward the belief that the government should provide only the most basic functions. Independents are evenly divided between the two approaches.
Gallup has asked this question five times since 2010, and taken as a whole, Americans end up being distributed evenly across the positions in their responses. About a third of Americans indicating a desire for a more limited government, and another third indicating a desire for a more active government. The rest fall in the middle. Americans are also about evenly matched at the most extreme points on the scale, with 20% opting for the most active possible government and 17% opting for the most limited government.
Fundamental views of what the government should or should not be doing is at the heart of many of the differences between the two major political parties and their candidates in the U.S. today. These views inform the disparate partisan approaches to solving specific issues of the day, including the economy, jobs, inequality, race relations, healthcare, education, guns and the environment. Democratic candidates tend to assume that government should be used as the means to solve many of these problems, while Republicans generally want to avoid government involvement and to find other ways to address the problems.
The issue of what the government should be doing is not one for which there is a clear majority direction from the citizens of this country taken as a whole. This in turn suggests that political candidates, and the parties they represent, need to recognize that the broad public is conflicted on the issue. While candidates can appeal to their partisan base with rigid positions on the “appropriate role of government” issue, from the broad perspective of the public in general, it is clearly an issue that calls for more flexible debate and discussion.