Anger not enough of a platform
Whether or not you agree or disagree with President Barack Obama, you have to admit he has managed to stir the pot. For conservatives, Obama represents the culmination of all their fears. The age of diversity arrived with a vengeance in 2008, and its herald was Obama. Suddenly young people, minorities and progressive women charted the nation’s future. Truly, it was the autumn of the patriarchs.
But conservatives did not give up so easily. From the beginning they conspired and cajoled to make Obama’s administration as unproductive as possible. Despite Obama’s moderation, a fact not lost on Democratic activists, he was accused of being a socialist, a consorter with radicals – or just plain dangerous. For the right, he remains a caricature, not a human being although his personal taste and reflexes remain fundamentally conservative, or cautious, if you prefer.
Even after his victory over Mitt Romney, conservatives were bound and determined to repudiate Obama and all his works. Years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Republican governors skirt the boundaries of interposition and nullification in not enforcing the law of the land. In states like Texas and North Carolina, legislators from the GOP behave more like street corner orators and insurrectionists than responsible lawmakers. All this is because Obama’s second term is more than they can bear.
But it would be wise for them to consider the old adage of “whom the gods would destroy they first make angry.” Certainly, they could learn from Democrats who, in their desire to bring down Richard Nixon, developed a scolding and moralizing stance toward politics. By 1974 and 1976, despite heavy majorities in Congress, they had no governing philosophy to offer the nation. When Jimmy Carter won in 1976, Democrats, so caught up in anti-Nixon rhetoric, forgot what they were for. Carter’s presidency was a casualty of such an attitude.
Such it is with Obama and his Republican critics. They have become nihilist through their contempt for the president. It has so obsessed the GOP that elements of it have become unhinged. Meanwhile, unlike Ronald Reagan in the 1970s or Barry Goldwater, who urged conservatives to “grow up” in 1960, the new right simply has carping as its only message.
It might seem like fun and games, but such extreme behavior can only alarm the voters. At a time when the Republicans could score real points on issues such as Egypt, they run on about abortion and Obamacare or Benghazi. Where this president is weak, the GOP has no answers. Their only response is downsizing government and tax cuts. They would use military force, if only they knew whom they were fighting. Perhaps North Korea will give them a few weeks to rattle the saber, though they dare not draw it.
In their fear of it, Republicans have no confidence in the future. Like the secessionists of the 1860s, they dwell on personalities and refuse to develop a plausible vision that yet might change history in their favor.