Summary: President Obama should have made it a top priority to help the American people see what the Republican Party has become. That would lead the people to take away that Party’s power. Unfortunately, Barack Obama seems ill-equipped by temperament and character to fight that battle. With your help, I can deliver a message that can focus our national conversation on the destructive force that has taken over the Republican Party.
If Barack Obama had become president at a time of normal politics, with a normal opposition party, there’s no telling how much he could have accomplished. On many issues, President Obama has strived to move the country in wise and beneficial directions. He might have become the transformational president he aspired to be, and that many of us hoped for when we elected him in 2008.
But it is his misfortune to be President when our politics is far from normal, and to have faced a Republican opposition more dishonest and destructive than anything ever before seen at center stage of American politics. One of President Obama’s top priorities should have been to help the American people see what that party has become so that they would take away its power.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama seems ill-equipped by temperament and character to fight that battle. Too often, the Republicans have been rewarded rather than punished for disgraceful behavior.
At the very outset, when the Republicans set about demonizing the newly elected president, and delegitimizing him with the birther lie, President Obama should have called them out for such disgraceful conduct, which amounts to an assault on the foundations of our democracy. Because he didn’t, about a third of the American electorate became permanently unreachable for him.
When the Republicans used a mere Senate rule (the filibuster) to trump the Constitution, making every vote require a super majority, the President should have denounced this unprecedented power-grab. Because he didn’t, minority rule replaced majority rule, the election results of 2008 were largely nullified, and more than 400 laws passed by the House died in the Senate.
In 2010, Republicans held the renewal of middle class tax cuts hostage to the renewal for the richest two percent. President Obama and the Democrats had an opportunity to take that issue into the 2010 mid-term elections. The public overwhelmingly supported the Democratic position, and the issue highlighted how the Republicans were serving plutocratic masters and not average Americans. The failure of Obama and other Democrats to press that battle helped make the 2010 elections a disaster for them — a disaster from which (in part because of the post-2010 gerrymandering) the nation continues to suffer.
In the summer of 2011, when Republicans used the debt ceiling to hold a gun to the nation’s head and say, in effect, “Meet our demands or we’ll hurt America,” President Obama should have used their extortion to expose their willingness to injure the country as the very opposite of patriotism. Instead, he capitulated, signing the damaging sequester and, in effect, capitulating too the false and disastrous Republican line that lowering budget deficits was more important than providing jobs and reviving the economy.
If we compare how Republican blackmail on the debt ceiling was handled in 2011 with how it was handled in the fall of 2013, it becomes clear that when President Obama and the Democrats stand strong and allow the spotlight to illuminate the true nature of the Republicans’ destructive and indefensible conduct, the American people repudiate the Republicans.
But after each successful jab at the Republicans, President Obama retreats to his corner. Instead of letting the Republicans recover, and letting them choose the moments of confrontation, President Obama should press the attack. Instead of talking nebulously about the problems in “Washington” and in “Congress,” President Obama should continually expose the extraordinarily destructive and dishonest force that’s taken over the Republican Party. America needs for the president to press the battle.
The failure to do so has been, and remains, terribly costly. Despite persistent over-reaching and self-destructive tendencies, Republican power remains sufficient to block legislation. Republicans could even take over the Senate in this fall’s elections, even though the public rejects Republican positions on most major issues, including background checks on gun purchases, immigration reform, and long-term unemployment compensation.
President Obama has failed to help the American people see the deep ugliness of the force now animating the political right – a force that is abetting the transformation of democracy into plutocracy, and robbing Americans of their birthright. Liberal America needs to show the nation the important truth that’s right in front of our eyes.
When our leaders fail to do what’s urgently needed, we the people need to find a way to get the job done.
I’ve got a plan for how we can achieve that. With your help, That’s what this “Press the Battle” series is about: to deliver a message that can focus our national conversation on the destructive force that has taken over the Republican Party.