More than a few people have suggested that one reason republicans have opposed Obama at every turn is because of racism. And not just those who aren’t paying attention, as none other than Attorney General Eric Holder has leveled the charge.
It’s easy to see why some people think this. Obama has received unprecedented opposition from almost his first day in office. His first big bill – the stimulus – was widely believed by economists to be too conservative, and yet it go zero votes in the GOP house. His biggest bill – healthcare – was so opposed by the GOP that Chuck Grassley declared he would vote against it even if he agreed with everything in the bill. Jim DeMint publicly announced that the GOP intended to make this Obama’s Waterloo. No discussion of its merits. No intention of contributing or shaping it in any way.
But those are big bills. I think the real sense of racial animus came from the complete obstruction of everything, even things that had previously been routine under both democrat and republican administrations. Basic appointments weren’t filled. The GOP wouldn’t even pass a debt ceiling increase. And the Senate had an explosion of filibusters, nearly doubling the previous record.
Ok, so we’ve established that the GOP has been obstructionist. But is it because they’re racist? Certainly that element exists in the GOP. But it would be a great misunderstanding to think this drives the opposition to Obama. On a grassroots level, it comes from just simply disagreeing with his policies.
HOWEVER, and this is big, the initial turning of the GOP against Obama was not originated by the grassroots. After all, Obama is actually not that liberal. But Chris, Obama is a socialist, didn’t you know? I’m not doubting the sincerity of those who oppose Obama. But the real turning against Obama came because the GOP power players, particularly the conservative media, turned against him.
This isn’t some smoke-filled-room diatribe about puppet-government politics. We know who these people are. GOP leaders like Jim DeMint and Eric Cantor. Donors like the Koch brothers. Strategists like Karl Rove. And media leaders like Roger Ailes. The list is long and you probably don’t know most of the names on it, but the point is that this wasn’t some shady thing.
The reason they opposed Obama is because he was a threat to their very ideology. Almost the entire underpinning of the current republican platform is the idea that government is not the answer. Government gets in the way rather than provides solutions. And when government provides solutions they fail.
How else can you promote lower taxes when we already have some of the most consistently low tax rates in the developed world (only Chile and Mexico are lower in the OECD) while our infrastructure crumbles? How else can you propose a smaller social safety net when we have the smallest in the developed world outside of South Korea, where grandmothers are prostituting themselves so they won’t starve? Agree or disagree on these points, you cannot dispute that the GOP’s primary guiding philosophy is one of small government.
Think about it. Obama had just run the most charismatic campaign in modern history. He had a remarkably high approval rating and a lot of momentum. If people start to think that maybe government can do good, then that’s a real problem for the GOP agenda.
Obama was trying to pass fiscal stimulus, healthcare reform, Wall Street reform, consumer protections, immigration reform, and that’s just the first couple of years. At all costs, Obama must not succeed. Because while republicans might lose popularity being obstructionist, so would Obama. But more importantly, the idea of government as “the answer” would be squashed.
Obama campaigned on hope, and if conservatives could show that was folly, then they’ve just made skeptics of millions people who will say “I’ve heard that before” the next time a candidate says they can get things done. Today’s levels of voter apathy are music to a GOP pollster’s ears.
There’s no racism in the unprecedented (at least in modern times) opposition to Obama. This is all about preventing an entire generation from looking to the government for solutions to today’s problems.