Obama's divide-and-conquer strategy: Is it really about destroying GOP?
The day after Obama's inauguration, Boehner accused him of trying to 'annihilate' the Republicans. Indeed, the party's struggles since have only grown. But weakening the GOP may not be all Obama wants.
There’s no doubt about it, things aren’t going well for the Republicans.Skip to next paragraph
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The latest polls show President Obama and the Democrats beating Republicans on just about every issue, from the economy and health care to immigration, Medicare, and gun violence. Overall, 45 percent of Americans agree with most of what the president is doing, 40 percent agree with the congressional Democrats, and only 29 percent agree with the congressional Republicans, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Wednesday.
So here’s a question: What role (if any) has Mr. Obama played in the Republicans’ travails? Some Republicans – hello, Eric Cantor – say there’s nothing wrong with the party’s positions, and their problem is marketing. Others, in a hint to hard-line tea partyers, say the party has to become more pragmatic and open to compromise even while still hewing to its core principles.
But there’s a case to be made that Obama has helped exacerbate the GOP’s internal divisions by highlighting wedge issues. Gay marriage, the expansion of Medicaid, immigration reform, even the “sequester” – all have splintered the Republicans and at times forced them into debate among themselves as much as with Democrats.
“Obama’s doing a good job of exploiting internal discord,” says Ford O’Connell, president of the conservative Civic Forum PAC.
The Republicans, of course, damaged themselves in the last election. The party is still digging out from Mitt Romney’s rich-guy gaffes, starting with his disparaging comments about the “47 percent.” Obama continues to crush the Republicans on the issue of who understands the concerns of the middle class. Then there were the off-key comments on rape that cost the Republicans two Senate seats and untold embarrassment nationally, especially among women voters.
But it was Obama’s unabashedly liberal speech at his second inaugural that fueled the notion that he is actively trying to splinter the opposition. He went after climate-change skeptics when he bashed those who “may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science.” He took an indirect slap at the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, when he dismissed the idea that the social safety net – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security – makes us “a nation of takers.”
Obama went in for the kill with this comment: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”
The speaker argued that because Obama laid out an agenda that can’t get through the Republican-controlled House, the administration’s real aim must be to destroy the GOP.
“Let me just tell you,” Speaker Boehner said, driving the point home, “I do believe that is their goal – to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”