How the GOP tried to destroy Obama and instead committed suicide

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Frontline, among others, reported on the Republican gathering just before Obama’s inauguration:

On the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, a group of top GOP luminaries quietly gathered in a Washington steakhouse to lick their wounds and ultimately create the outline of a plan for how to deal with the incoming administration.

“The room was filled. It was a who’s who of ranking members who had at one point been committee chairmen, or in the majority, who now wondered out loud whether they were in the permanent minority,” Frank Luntz, who organized the event, told FRONTLINE.

Among them were Senate power brokers Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn, and conservative congressmen Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan.

After three hours of strategizing, they decided they needed to fight Obama on everything. The new president had no idea what the Republicans were planning.

True to their word in this instance, the Republicans have spent the entirety of President Obama’s two terms obstructing nearly every agenda item possible. POLITICO, as of late December, counted 101 openings for the most senior level administration jobs in the Cabinet-level agencies, out of a total of 379 positions.

Catherine Rampell reported on vacancies at the federal court level noting that last year, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed just 11 federal judges, the fewest in any year since 1960. Only one appeals court judge was confirmed, the lowest number since 1953.

The Affordable Care Act is the most obvious legislative example of GOP stonewalling. At every turn, Republicans have tried their hardest to prevent President Obama from achieving even the most modest of desired outcomes.

The Result

Let’s ignore opinions of whether or not this was the correct course of action. What were the results of these efforts for the GOP?

First and foremost, look at those congressional power brokers mentioned by name above and where they are now:

  • Jim DeMint: Resigned from the Senate in 2013 to become president of the Heritage Foundation
  • Jon Kyl: Left the Senate at the end of his term in 2012; now works as a lobbyist
  • Tom Coburn: Resigned from the Senate, citing declining health
  • Eric Cantor: Resigned his congressional seat after losing in the primary of 2014; now vice chairman of an investment bank
  • Kevin McCarthy: Failed run for Speaker of the House after the resignation of John Boehner; still a member of Congress
  • Paul Ryan: Currently Speaker of the House, succeeding John Boehner who resigned due to internal pressure from party members

Based purely on these results, one could conclude that the Republican leadership made a fundamental miscalculation in their approach to President Obama. Indeed, many of these members were forced out of Congress because of their failure to stop Obama’s accomplishments completely.

Current State of the Party

That brings us to today. The vast majority of the Republican leadership that promised so loudly to fight President Obama on everything are now gone from the political landscape. President Obama remains, with Hillary Clinton promising to implement a third term of Obama’s policy agenda.

As for the current GOP leadership? It is in disarray, to say the least. After years of attempting to convince Americans that President Obama was destroying the country, that he is a secret Muslim, that the ACA is destroying health care, that America is on the verge of collapse, the Republican presidential nomination is about to be won by Donald Trump.

This GOP primary season has been marked by almost no substantive discussion of issues, no discussion of how to improve the lives of everyday Americans. Instead, it has been marked most visibly by constant name-calling. The race actually hit a new low last week with Marco Rubio asserting that Trump may have ‘wet himself’ while Trump responded by making fun of the size of Rubio’s ears, among other things.

How has Trump enacted a stranglehold on the nomination?

The NYTimes reported this week:

Despite all the forces arrayed against Mr. Trump, the interviews show, the party has been gripped by a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair, as he has won smashing victories in South Carolina and Nevada.

“A nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum” might be due to the absence of those same Republican leaders who vowed to fight Obama on everything.

What if they had approached the Obama presidency differently? What if they had not portrayed him as the Antichrist and instead prepared to work with him, extracting important concessions on policies that matter to the GOP?

Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe they would have been driven out of Washington just as fast as they were in this reality. Maybe Trump would still be the candidate of choice.

But… maybe it could have been different.

In that same NYTimes article, GOP strategists actually discuss potentially running ads against Donald Trump in the general election. The unnamed strategists explain:

A Trump nomination would not only cause Republicans to lose the presidency, they wrote, “but we also lose the Senate, competitive gubernatorial elections and moderate House Republicans.”

It didn’t have to be this way.

There’s 2 Kinds of Dumb. Indiana’s Legislators are the Second Kind.

Hoosiers

Look, mister, there’s… two kinds of dumb, uh… guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and, uh, guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don’t matter, the second one you’re kinda forced to deal with.
-George, “Hoosiers”


No question, Mike Pence and the state legislators who voted for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) are the second kind of dumb. In my previous post, I laid out my belief about why this law was passed. Here, I’ll discuss why this law is just so stupid, unnecessary, and hurtful to everyone.

RFRA is stupid.

Republicans regularly paint themselves as the party of the job creators and of small government. Well, is this law helping or hurting job creation? Our state is losing millions of dollars in potential conventions, sporting events, business travel, and other opportunities. The damage to the hospitality industry in Indianapolis won’t be known possibly for years. It’s not irreparable (I hope), but it is an incredibly stupid self-inflicted wound that serves no real purpose.

As for Indiana Republicans’ small-government mantra, it was only a few weeks ago that Governor Pence tried to develop his own state-run news service before being shamed into abandoning it shortly after it was announced. The RFRA debacle is just another misstep for a party that continues to shoot itself in the foot.

If you truly believe in small government, there should be a compelling reason to pass a new law. After all, it only makes sense that passing unnecessary laws would not be consistent with a small-government philosophy.

Yes or no: Is there a compelling reason for RFRA?
No. (See what I did there?)

Why do I say there’s not a compelling reason for this law? Well…

RFRA is unnecessary.

This law is not seeking to address any actual, real-world problem. There are no cases in Indiana that lack a process to resolve disputes. With all the obsessive attention lavished on this law, I have yet to hear of a single case in Indiana that this law purports to address.

I do however, know of an instance very recently in Indianapolis where a company did in fact deny a gay couple service due to their religious objections. What happened?

The couple wanted to celebrate their love with a commitment ceremony in April. Mike called 111 Cakery downtown to order a cake.

“[The owner] said, ‘We don’t do that. If I can help you with anything else, but we don’t discriminate.’ That was the end of it,” he said. “It’s disappointing.”

“…We found someone that will do it for us so we’re going to focus on the good,” said Mike.

This is how Hoosiers often solve our problems. Our goal is not to bend others to our will through sheer force but to believe in the goodness of each other and trust that those who don’t exhibit these qualities won’t be around long. (Indeed, 111 Cakery is no longer in business, although the owners stress their closing is unrelated to this incident.)

As I said, this law is unnecessary. But when a law like this is passed, people no longer default to their more informal ‘live and let live’ agreements. Some feel emboldened to put their new-found ‘religious freedom’ to the test just to prove they can. These disputes now become a battle of wills instead of a burden of conscience. It becomes a question of whether or not you can discriminate instead of whether or not you should discriminate.

That means lawyers and at that point we all lose. Stupid and unnecessary (or at least it has been unnecessary to this point in history).

And that brings us to this…

RFRA is hurtful to everyone.

Most Hoosiers got along just fine before this, relatively speaking. Now, we have been forced to choose sides. As proud citizens of Indiana, we are left to explain why, if we are not intolerant people, we choose representatives who pass legislation like this.

Good people who have sincere, thoughtful objections to homosexuality have been painted as uncaring, hateful bigots. Communities that have long accepted the LGBT community as their own have been forced to explicitly proclaim they are not intolerant. They feel the need to do so to avoid being caught up in the maelstrom caused by legislators who insist on fighting culture wars at the government level instead of helping our state’s economy and letting the culture address its issues privately, individually.

Our state legislators have accomplished a rare feat. They have somehow managed to piss off nearly everyone in the country (from all sides), potentially lose millions of dollars in business, divide Hoosiers against each other, and gravely damage the meaning of ‘Hoosier Hospitality.’

And for what? To reassert something that was never an issue in the first place? To remind the LGBT community that some will always see them as second-class citizens? Oh, right. None of this is about discrimination. Except it is. The legislature was warned about this poorly written law by the legal community but they pushed it through anyway.

These legislators are the second kind of dumb and now we’re forced to deal with them. I can’t wait for Election Day.

What I think of the midterm election results.

As I often share my admittedly unsolicited political views in this space, I think it’s only fair to comment on the beat-down that the Republicans delivered to the Democrats last week. Is this a repudiation of all things Obama? Is there a Republican mandate? Will gridlock be a thing of the past? Well, this is what I think:

Why did the Republicans win so completely?

  • They understand that they have to rev up the base for every election, but that each voter matters in low-turnout elections. They do a great job of getting people fired up to vote. After all, the future of America is at stake! For Democrats, it’s more an attitude of ‘Things will be ok either way but help us enact policies.’ Not the same level of urgency, for sure.
  • Gerrymandering means that there are really not that many seats in contention for either party at the House level.
  • For the Senate, it’s easier to get a single candidate elected, especially in an otherwise non-eventful voting year. If you can convince the base to come out in any election, you are going to fare well. This is especially true in years when there is a low turnout.

Why did the Democrats lose so badly?

The Democrats seemed terribly afraid of their own record, even though it’s remarkably positive right now. John Stewart made this point well on his show recently with correspondent Jordan Klepper:

KLEPPER: Last night, at approximately 11:27 EST, the Republicans gained control of the U.S. Senate and the results were almost immediate. The economy, now growing at a robust 3.5 percent. Gas this morning, under three bucks a gallon. Look, stock market at record levels. Deficits cut in half. Ten million more Americans have health insurance. And unemployment sub six percent for the first time since we elected “chairman” Obama.

STEWART: But wait. Hang on a second Jordan, because the things that you’re describing…

KLEPPER: Even Ebola… look Jon… which was on the verge of destroying the country under Obama’s feckless leadership has suddenly become a problem for like… one guy. It’s morning in America Jon!

STEWART: Jordan, that is an incredibly impressive list that you ticked off of things that happened under Obama and the Democratic Senate.

KLEPPER: Oh please Jon, if Democrats had accomplished all of that, they would have been out there bragging about it for months. It would have been the central message of their campaign instead of their actual message, which was like, I’m quoting this here, “We’re sorry, don’t be mad! We don’t like Obama either and we like guns too! Amen.

What does this mean for the last two years of Obama’s presidency?

  • Probably not much, honestly. I mean, are Republicans going to be even more obstructionist than they have been? I don’t see how. So it’ll probably be more of the same.
  • Republicans may have to take some responsibility for governing now. However, I can’t see them passing anything that will actually include compromise. My guess is they will pass a lot of legislation with Republican stances and make Obama veto them or they will pass legislation that appears reasonable on the surface but contains poison pills that are completely unacceptable. Either way, they will then claim they are passing legislation and that Obama is now the real obstructionist.
  • Perhaps there will be some areas of true compromise. I hope that this comes to fruition. Like most Americans, I value compromise and wish our elected representatives would engage in it more often.
  • Republicans are not evil, and their ideas are worthwhile, even if I often disagree with them. I actually think the biggest problem is that Republicans regularly promote the idea that Obama and Democrats are evil and seek to destroy the country. That’s simply not true either and makes real dialogue impossible.

Does this mean the country has rejected Democratic policy ideas and endorsed Republican proposals?

I really don’t think so. If you look more closely, democratic agenda items were overwhelmingly passed even though those states also elected Republican candidates. For instance:

  1. Marijuana legalization
  2. Minimum wage increase
  3. Personhood Amendment

At the end of the day, I think Congress is so gridlocked there just really isn’t a whole lot of room for anything to really get done, no matter what the election results are. The sad thing is, we have real problems around immigration, public health, infrastructure, climate change, and more that desperately call out for our elected officials to work together. I don’t see that happening any time soon, but a boy can dream, right?