Quote of the Day:
In the first term, Republicans and conservatives fought Barack Obama. In the second term, they decided it made more sense to fight each other.
–Daniel Henninger in today's Wall Street Journal
If you read only one thing today, let it be Daniel Henninger's column, which asserts that Barack Obama can retire a happy man. The president is is six months away from destroying the Republican Party and Ronald Reagan's legacy. .
Henninger notes that the "last men standing amidst the debris of the Republican presidential competition" are a political independent, who is "using the Republican Party like an Uber car," a senator who "used the Republican Party as a footstool," and a holdover from the Reagan Revolution who is being urged to quit. Even if you don't buy Henninger's assessment of the candidates, it is still a perplexing situation. How did we get here?
History may quibble, but this death-spiral began with Barack Obama’s health-care summit at Blair House on Feb. 25, 2010. For a day, Republicans gave detailed policy critiques of the proposed Affordable Care Act. When it was over, the Democrats, including Mr. Obama, said they had heard nothing new.
That meeting was the last good-faith event in the Obama presidency. Barack Obama killed politics in Washington that day because he had no use for it, and has said so many times. The Democrats survived the Obama desert by going to ground. But frustrated Republicans outside Congress eventually started tearing each other apart.
There are a number of reasons for this angry turning inward, and though I don't necessarily agree with Henninger's characterizations of various individuals, I want to quote his overall analysis of what happened:
Among the reasons is that the Republican leadership missed the messaging force of social media until it was too late. Congressional politics is mostly process. Modern politics is mostly message. The Obama message machine, “tax cuts for millionaires,” never stopped.
With no party spokesman for conservatism, an ideological vacuum existed. Freelance operators filled it.
They included two hyper-ambitious Senate freshman, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. They also included a movement to purge and cleanse conservatism, led by groups such as Heritage Action and by talk radio hosts. Together they conjured an internal enemy—the Republican Establishment.
Unlike the mainstream media, which is disciplined and functions as a Roman phalanx to protect the Democratic candidate, the conservative media showed no such focus. Some demanded "suicide raids" on the Obama presidency. Often the prescribed form was to pass legislation that would face an inevitable veto. Issues were "reframed" in terms of betrayal, depicting something called the Establishment as having betrayed the base.
Henninger cites Nicholas Confessore's gleeful piece called “How the G.O.P. Elite Lost Its Voters to Donald Trump.” What the piece really talks about is the GOP's self-destruction and the delegitimizing of what Reagan stood for: tax cuts, deregulation, entitlement reform, and prosperity. Henninger concludes:
In early 2015, Republicans were one election away from defeating a weak Democratic opponent and controlling both houses of Congress. Barring a miracle in Cleveland, they likely are six months away from losing two of those three plus the Supreme Court.
Barack Obama should frame the Confessore piece and hang it in the Obama Library. His presidency produced a moribund U.S. economy for eight years. In a response so bizarre that future historians will gape, the Republicans decided to destroy each other.
Let's hope this will turn around, but it is an excellent analysis of misdirected and self-destructive anger.
Republican message: hey, let's burn ourselves down.