High on the long list of things Republicans decided not to change after the 2012 election—below opposition to immigration reform, but above the belief that Democrats only win elections by showering the poor with generous welfare benefits—is an abiding faith that the fundamental unit of politics is the decontextualized “gaffe.”
As a demonstration of that faith, Republicans are leaning heavily into 15 words Hillary Clinton uttered late last week while stumping for Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.” Throw in the context and it’s clear that Clinton was reciting a standard Democratic denunciation of the view that liberating the wealthy from taxes and regulations is the key to economic growth. “You know, that old theory, trickle-down economics,” she added. “That has been tried. That has failed. That has failed rather spectacularly.”
But shear off the surrounding language and you’re left with a game-changing soundbite that will propel a Republican into the White House two years from now.