Saturday, January 19, 2013

Our Greatest Statesman and the Conservative Question

For the last five years half of this country has been lectured, threatened, accused and denigrated for our divisive actions and speech. We are "bitterly clinging to guns and religion", hateful of "the other," and deeply resentful of "paying our fair share." We are arrogant, believing that we did, in fact, build that, and suspicious of science that seeks to save the planet through a massive transfer of wealth from rich countries to poor ones.

But we in this half of the country, ignorant and filled with rage, have remained unmoved by the threats and insults, immune to the wily charm of being called racists, Nazis, and nuts. Contemplating a second term as ruler over such an unappreciative population, one can only imagine that President Obama must be driven -- unwillingly, painfully, regretfully -- to the point where he now, at last, must concede that all his best attempts at conciliatory smack talk, finger-pointing, thinly veiled threats, and outright bribery, arm-twisting and lying have failed to create the bipartisan Utopia into which he had promised to march us as one, in lockstep, smiling, eyes lifted upward, "FORWARD!"

Even if it leaves half the country behind.

So, reluctantly, President Obama must come to the unavoidable conclusion that the only solution to the Conservative Question is The Final Solution. Politically speaking, of course.

Go for the Throat!

Why if he wants to transform American politics, Obama must declare war on the Republican Party.

by John Dickerson

On Monday, President Obama will preside over the grand reopening of his administration. It would be altogether fitting if he stepped to the microphone, looked down the mall, and let out a sigh ...

A long, suffering sigh. A sigh which acknowledges just how stupid and unreasonable half the country is. A sigh which recognizes that, because of this, he must now seek to destroy this half. Utterly.

Inaugural speeches are supposed to be huge and stirring. Presidents haul our heroes onstage, from George Washington to Martin Luther King Jr. George W. Bush brought the Liberty Bell. They use history to make greatness and achievements seem like something you can just take down from the shelf. Americans are not stuck in the rut of the day.
But the bitter half of America has selfishly robbed him of this tradition, leaving him no option but to smack us around some more.

The challenge for President Obama’s speech is the challenge of his second term: how to be great when the environment stinks. Enhancing the president’s legacy requires something more than simply the clever application of predictable stratagems.
The president who came into office speaking in lofty terms about bipartisanship and cooperation can only cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP. If he wants to transform American politics, he must go for the throat. (emphasis mine.)

Obama’s only remaining option is to pulverize. Whether he succeeds in passing legislation or not, given his ambitions, his goal should be to delegitimize his opponents. Through a series of clarifying fights over controversial issues, he can force Republicans to either side with their coalition's most extreme elements or cause a rift in the party that will leave it, at least temporarily, in disarray.

This theory of political transformation rests on the weaponization (and slight bastardization) of the work by Yale political scientist Stephen Skowronek. Skowronek has written extensively about what distinguishes transformational presidents from caretaker presidents. In order for a president to be transformational, the old order has to fall as the orthodoxies that kept it in power exhaust themselves. Obama's gambit in 2009 was to build a new post-partisan consensus. That didn't work, but by exploiting the weaknesses of today’s Republican Party, Obama has an opportunity to hasten the demise of the old order by increasing the political cost of having the GOP coalition defined by Second Amendment absolutists, climate science deniers, supporters of “self-deportation” and the pure no-tax wing.
Driven by the intransigence and willful stubbornness that mark half the country as people who would rather see children gunned down than be "reasonable" on further limitations on Constitutional rights, what is Obama left to do but destroy his opposition. 

That fight will be loud and in the open—and in the short term unproductive. The president can stir up these fights by poking the fear among Republicans that the party is becoming defined by its most extreme elements, which will in turn provoke fear among the most faithful conservatives that weak-willed conservatives are bending to the popular mood. That will lead to more tin-eared, dooming declarations of absolutism like those made by conservatives who sought to define the difference between legitimate and illegitimate rape—and handed control of the Senate to Democrats along the way. For the public watching from the sidelines, these intramural fights will look confused and disconnected from their daily lives. (Lip-smacking Democrats don’t get too excited: This internal battle is the necessary precondition for a GOP rebirth, and the Democratic Party has its own tensions.)

This approach is not a path of gentle engagement. It requires confrontation and bright lines and tactics that are more aggressive than the president demonstrated in the first term. He can't turn into a snarling hack. The posture is probably one similar to his official second-term photograph: smiling, but with arms crossed.
My smile doesn't have to reach my eyes. I can't stand this country. That means you.

The president already appears to be headed down this path. He has admitted he’s not going to spend much time improving his schmoozing skills; he's going to get outside of Washington to ratchet up public pressure on Republicans. He is transforming his successful political operation into a governing operation. It will have his legacy and agenda in mind—and it won’t be affiliated with the Democratic National Committee, so it will be able to accept essentially unlimited donations. The president tried to use his political arm this way after the 2008 election, but he was constrained by re-election and his early promises of bipartisanship. No more. Those days are done.

And if we let him get away with this, so are we.


  1. As far as I can see, he's arguing that Obama will and should do exactly what he did in his first term. He's always spent a lot of time outside Washington because he hates working and loves the adulation of the crowds. He never even made any pretense of bipartisanship. He's always demonized conservatives which does promote division with the moderates, not that that takes any great political skill. He was, and will always be, an agent of destruction.

    And now a new Firewall, because well why not?

    1. I watched that video first thing yesterday morning. I think Whittle is great, but I'm just not convinced by his rosy picture of the future. But I have my fingers crossed for him.

      Obama is the first president this country has ever had who I really honestly believe HATES half the country. The American half.

    2. Yeah, he's an optimist. Don't know how it happened but I guess I am too, though I'm probably more cynical. In the short to medium term things are looking pretty damn bad, unavoidably so, but I've still got my fingers crossed that pure hell can be averted and that the long term can be better.

      He hates half the country and the rest he just tolerates. He doesn't actually like anybody but himself. I wouldn't be surprised if he was talking off-the-cuff one day and got his kids' names wrong. After all, they aren't him so they aren't really real anyway. There's some serious flaw in human makeup that leads to people blindly adoring narcissistic freaks like Obama.

  2. I don't believe I've ever seen Obama with a genuine smile. Those eyes are cold and empty.

    1. His expression always creeps me out. There is such malevolence lurking behind his eyes.