It's a long-standing political trope that politicians have to appeal to their base during the primary by heading towards the fringe and then tack back towards the center in the general. Jeb Bush even made a stink about it before getting Trumped:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made the case for a more centrist Republican Party on Monday night, saying a nominee should "lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles."
It's just the way the game is played. Or, at least it used to be.
During all three debates, but especially last night's, Hillary was unapologetically liberal. She didn't make even the feeblest attempt to distance herself from any of the progressive values she ran on during the primaries.
She gave full-throated support to tax increases on the rich, tuition-free community college, gun control, immigration reform, strengthening the safety net instead of cutting it, and, oh my stars and garters, she didn't even flinch away from late-term abortions.
Just to be clear, Hillary Clinton not only did not flinch from being asked about late term abortions, she defended them in no uncertain terms:
Because Roe v. Wade very clearly sets out that there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and health of the mother are taken into account. And when I voted as a senator [against a ban on late-term abortions], I did not think that that was the case. The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who, toward the end of their pregnancy, get the worst news one could get that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions. So you can regulate if you are doing so with the life and health of the mother taken into account.
Contrary to what Donald Trump would have us believe, women do not "rip the baby out of the womb on the ninth month on the final day". It simply does not happen unless the life of the mother is in imminent danger and at that point, doctors simply perform a Cesarean.
But even with that being the reality, the pro-"life" movement has turned late-term abortions into a third rail that Democrats prefer to avoid at all costs. Yet, Hillary stood up in front of the entire nation and defended them with zero concern about paying a political cost. It was a breath of fresh air to see a Democratic candidate eschew conventional wisdom.
Part of this was the same kind of bravery that prompted her to go to China and call out the most populous nation on earth for its dismal record on women's rights. But part of it was that Republicans have made it not only possible, but desirable, to be unabashedly progressive on the national stage.
When Republican thought they had a "permanent majority" in Congress during Bush 43's administration, they began a campaign of hyperpartisanship, adopting an "us and them" mentality exaggerated by a newly powerful Fox News. When it all fell apart and Democrats had control of the White House and all of Congress, Republicans went from hyperpartisan to ludicrous speed, ratcheting up the "us and them" rhetoric to dangerously insane levels.
But it worked. Republicans took control of the House and Senate and had the country sharply divided into red and blue. The problem, of course, is that there are far more blue voters than red. Millions of them.
By so closely identifying the parties with a specific set of social and economic values, Republicans inadvertently forced the Democrats to be the very thing Democrats had been shying away from for decades: Openly and aggressively liberal. At the same time, the Republican Party so closely identified itself with rage and bigotry and old white men, it essentially chased Millennials, women and minorities (otherwise known as "significantly more than half the country") into the arms of the Democrats.
So where once Bill Clinton was forced to "triangulate" with Republicans to get anything done and hew to the political center, Hillary is free to be as liberal as she wants with zero political penalty from the electorate.
Even worse, there's very little of her agenda that Republicans can turn into an Obamacare-style fight. Even the majority of conservatives are fine with taxing the rich to build more bridges and roads or provide tuition free college. And good luck convincing the country that protecting women's reproductive rights is a Communist plot to turn fetuses gay or something.
Republicans are reaping what they've sown and if Hillary gets only half of her aggressively progressive agenda passed, even her far-left critics will be hard pressed to complain she's not getting enough done.