On Friday's Hardball, Chris Matthews continued his tirade targeted at Democrats from the previous day, in the wake of the party's loss in the special election in Florida on Tuesday. The MSNBC host bemoaned how supposedly, "Republicans say, we've got to cut entitlements....And yet, they don't pay a price for it politically. I'm determined that they pay a price for their words."
Matthews added that "Democrats better be focusing on what Republicans are promising to do – on issues like choice; on issues like voter suppression – or they're going to get their asses handed to them this November." He later zeroed in on how Republicans apparently "exploited" Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink's "reasonable" approach during her campaign: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
CHRIS MATTHEWS: ...Alex Sink went into an election in Florida this week – the big test election – she went in there with an idea of compromise; let's work across the aisle; let's try to get things....She also said ObamaCare isn't perfect. It's got to be fixed. I'm not going to hold the line and say everything's great. But that point of view, which was so darn reasonable and good for the country's long haul, is exploited on the other side – because they come in like – like demolition derby. They say we're getting rid of everything. You people are all weak. We got a strong view; back to religious values; get rid of all government; and we hate Obama. That's simple, black and white – what you call black and white, Manichaean view of the world – seems to beat the softer, more reasonable view of the world that you got from Alex Sink.
The MSNBC host led his program by dubiously connecting apparent historical victories by "liberals" to how present-day "progressives" need to prevail on social programs:
MATTHEWS: Let me start tonight with this: have you noticed that the liberals usually win the argument – eventually? It's been true from the beginning of our country. Back in the 18th century, the Tories opposed independence. Thanks to Thomas Paine, an immigrant, the once radical case for separation from England emerged to win the day. The case for abolition of slavery was so fiery, it led to wars, as well as argument, but with it all came emancipation. Women wanted the right to vote and won it. Jim Crow lost its fight with Dr. King, and civil rights became law. Gays were once shunned to the side; today, they're winning the battle for full acceptance and even marriage quality.
Well, the same is true of the social safety net. Conservatives fought Social Security. Ronald Reagan championed the fight against Medicare. The Republicans voted as a bloc against [the] Affordable Care [Act]. And in each case, the liberals won – eventually. Even as the struggle heads to another test this November, with the GOP rear guard sniping away at health care – promising to chop away at the social safety net that the progressives have built in this country – and every voter, obviously, has a stake.
Matthews then turned to MSNBC regulars John Heilemann and Jonathan Capehart, and continued his rant by spotlighting the slavery analogy a Republican congressional candidate in Arizona recently made, and concluded with his "pay a price for their words" and "get their asses handed to them" lines:
MATTHEWS: ...Gentlemen, I want to you to look at a couple of things. Here's a congressional candidate – a Republican – out in Arizona going after the social safety net. If you want to see, by the way, how hellbent some Republicans are, take a look at this: Buzzfeed is reporting this Arizona Republican congressional candidate – his name is Jim Brown – went on a racially-charged rant earlier this week by comparing social safety net programs to slavery.
Here's what he wrote – quote, 'I want folks to think seriously about how slavery really works. Back the day of slavery, slaves were kept in slavery by denying them education and opportunity, while providing them with their basic needs. And it is my sincere belief that over entitlements are a means of enslaving the people by robbing opportunity, while taking care of basic needs. Think about it.' Well, we are. Brown apologized yesterday for those remarks.
There's still this sympathy, John Heilemann – you constantly hear Republicans say, we've got to cut entitlements. Entitlements – if you look at them, are Social Security and Medicare mainly – and yet, they keep saying we got to cut back on government. We've got to cut back on this safety net, entitlement stuff. And yet, they don't pay a price for it politically. I'm determined that they pay a price for their words, like every politician should. Your thoughts, because it seems to me that Democrats better be focusing on what Republicans are promising to do – on issues like choice; on issues like voter suppression – or they're going to get their asses handed to them this November.
Heilemann replied, in part, that "there's no doubt that Democrats need to rally their troops, if they're going to hold the line. It's very unlikely they're going to advance much in the midterm elections this November...the Republican electorate in an off year is already fired up....The Democrats have got to get up off the ground, or they're going the face even worse losses than they're already looking like they're going to face, kind of inevitably, in this off-year election."
The MSNBC personality followed up by asserting that "the Republicans benefit from a lot of vague talk. They go after entitlements – people think minorities; they think welfare; they think somebody in an urban area – in a row house somewhere....They're constantly looking for ways to chop away what they don't like, which was the New Deal and the Great Society."
Capehart remarked that "Democrats have to force Republicans to answer some questions. So they want to cut Social Security, and they want to cut Medicaid and Medicare. Democrats need to ask Republicans, so what are you going to do about the people whose benefits are cut? When will they be cut? Whose benefits will be cut? When will – when will this take place?"
Matthews continued his lament later in the segment:
MATTHEWS: ...I think a lot of the voters – because of the atmospherics right now – the blues that out there – and there are blues in this country because the economy hasn't perked up the way it should; or people believe it should, certainly, and are feeling it. But it's like all they do is go into that voting booth in November and vote no, and the only consequence will be it will feel bad for the President that night. But in fact, the consequences of elections are always bigger than that. They affect who is going to get reapportioned; who's going to get gerrymandered; who's going to lose the right to vote, or the access to voting; who is going to lose the programs they believe in. Because the other party isn't just a no to Obama; it's a yes to what they want. And what I'm afraid of – it's going to be a free ride this November. People are going to vote for some – oh my God, did we vote for that? I thought I was just showing my anger against the President.
Heilemann contended that "the one thing that makes it more complicated for Democrats, I think, is that...you have a President of the United States, in Barack Obama, who is in principle and has in practice been in favor of reforming entitlements...he's been on record for proposing relatively large cuts to Medicare. He is in principle for the idea of trying to reform Social Security. And frankly, for the long-run fiscal health of the country, those things probably actually need to be happening. The question is, how they get done, and that's where the real argument that Democrats should want to have is."