Obama goes over familiar terrain

If nature abhors a vacuum, the last months, indeed years, could have fooled me. Barack Obama and his enemies have gone back and forth over the same political terrain for more than five years.

Nothing new has emerged, largely because the GOP refused to even honor slightly the election result of November 2008. Even when that triumph was confirmed in 2012, the attitude was simply, as General Petain said at Verdun, “they shall not pass” – a political stalemate emerged.

Despite all, Obama throughout his presidency has sought amity with his opponents. Even at a prayer breakfast he spoke well of Louis Gohmert, a Texas Republican who has largely written the president off as a human being, much less as the leader of the free world.

This is as if Julius Caesar should have forgiven Brutus for having excellent table manners, laudable but somewhat misguided. Both the White House and Congress have little regard for each other, but the GOP House has been noted for its choleric nature.

When a certain congressman from Texas named Pete Sessions recently referred to extending unemployment benefits as “immoral” he once more accented the Republican tendency toward overstatement. They are dedicated to the Miley Cyrus “wrecking ball” approach to politics. Indeed they did not “want to start a war” but they did.

Not since the voices of Josiah Bailey, Harry Byrd Sr. and all the old Southern Democratic grandees resonated in the halls of Congress has such militant recalcitrance been seen in Washington. Even Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms were gentler, the latter being admired for being able to charm “a cat off a shrimpboat.” These partisans hearken back to an earlier and more vociferous era.

That some of these Republicans should sound like Southern Democrats of the 1940s is they are the grandsons and great grandsons and daughters of that group. As the Democrats have become stronger in the Northeast and California, Southern Republicans have slowly shaped the GOP agenda. School vouchers, those protectors of “seg academies” and religious separatist institutions, have grown. But as with the Democrats of older times in the South they are masters at politics but not as astute at divining trends.

For instance, they have fought Obama’s attempts at socio-economic reform with some success.

The environmental initiations they drive back, even given the mounting evidence that things have gone wrong in trying to protect our air and water. Gun control is a virtual non-starter.

But gay rights, marijuana reform – all these have slipped through in certain sectors. The old “moral majority” is creaking at the beams, being slowly replaced by the “fiscally xonservative, socially liberal” libertarian hipster. Perhaps Rob Ford of Toronto might become the new symbol of a revived xonservative movement. Let’s hope not.