For some reason, even to people who have no problem mocking the work of people like Young Master Bragman in general, the “Hillary Clinton is a moderate Republican” lie holds a peculiar power. Every relevant comment thread will contain some strained attempt to defend it. I quote the most recent not to pick on anyone in particular (the commenter is describing an argument rather than endorsing it) but because it’s made in a conveniently self-refuting way:
In some ways you could argue (unconvincingly) that Hillary Clinton is sort of what a moderate Republican should look like. Perhaps in many foreign countries she would qualify as a moderate center-right politician. You might also make the argument that Jon Huntsman was what counted for a moderate Republican in the last election cycle, but he was an utterly hopeless candidate. The problem, as I’m sure is obvious to you and most readers here, is not with the lack of moderate Republican candidates but with the lack of moderate Republican voters.
But this is exactly the problem with the argument. Let us consider Jon Huntsman. He favors a constitutional amendment that would make abortion first degree murder in all 50 states. He wants to massively slash the top income tax rate and eliminate capital gains and estate taxes entirely. He wants to repeal the ACA and he’s smart enough to know that it would be replaced with nothing. He wants Dodd-Frank repealed. He has denounced the EPA’s “regulatory reign of terror.” He opposes any form of gun control. He is, in short, far to the right of Hillary Clinton on almost every issue. The fact that he passes for a moderate Republican — something that these days can be purchased on the cheap by taking a standard-issue conservative Republican and appending a few things like “maybe we shouldn’t crash the world economy” and “now that I’m not running for office same-sex marriage seems OK” — is, in fact, checkmate on the outrageously untrue assertion that Hillary Clinton is basically a moderate Republican.
As for the attempted save that in most other liberal democracies Hillary Clinton would be a moderate conservative, this isn’t the argument that “Hillary Clinton is a moderate Republican” is making — it is explicitly a claim about where she’s situated within the American political spectrum. In addition, unless you have a plan to move the center of gravity of American electoral politics to where it is in Denmark, observing that Hillary Clinton would be a conservative in Denmark is irrelevant to any question unless the question is how the American political center of gravity compares to Denmark’s.
The version of the argument is to define the argument that Hillary Clinton is a moderate Republican in the tradition of John Lindsay or Bob LaFollette or Charles Sumner or something. Again, this version of the argument is also useless on its face. If the only way to salvage the argument is to say you’re comparing Hillary Clinton to liberal Republicans who 1)no longer exist and 2)in their time were indistinguishable from the mainstream liberals of their era, then you have no argument. If the only way to say that Hillary Clinton is a “moderate Republican” is to define “moderate Republican” as being identical to a “mainstream liberal Democrat” then the argument obviously has less than no value.
This is a form of argument, in other words, that should be left where it belongs with the “Bernie or Cruz” crowd. There’s no level on which it is correct. It is too kind to the Democratic Party of the past. It is far too kind to the Republican Party in any form it has taken for the last century. It is a ridiculous lie about the current partisan alignment of the United States. There is no possible way of making it into a defensible claim. Let us please stop trying.