From Alberto Gonzales to Rush Limbaugh and everyone in between, the Republican Party is whining as Obama prepares to move into the White House. So, Bush just had bad luck with bad things happening on his watch? Or maybe the GOP’s bad luck just happened to send Bush to the White House in the first place???
But according to Paul Krugman, click here to read his entire column; and I agree, the fault lies with the Republican party itself. Forty years ago the GOP decided, in effect, to make itself the party of racial backlash. And everything that has happened in recent years, from the choice of Mr. Bush as their champion, to the pervasive incompetence of his administration, to the party’s shrinking base, is a consequence of that decision. The conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation specifically urged the new 2000 team to make appointments based on loyalty first and expertise second.
There was contempt for expertise and it in turn rested on contempt for government in general. Ronald Reagan declared that “Government is not the solution to our problem, Government IS the problem. So why worry about governing well?
The Republicans back in the 80s began to take advantage of the situation in the south which originally focused on opposition to the Voting Rights Act but eventually took a more coded form: “You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.” Or, government is the problem because it takes your money and gives it to Those People.
Krugman says the racial element isn’t all that abstract, even now: Chip Saltsman, currently a candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, sent committee members a CD including a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro” and according to some reports, the controversy over his action has actually helped his chances! Is that outrageous or what!
Still there are some commentators warning President-elect Obama against bold action and have held up Clinton’s political failures in his first two years as a cautionary tale.
But America today is very different country from what it was in 1993 – not just a country that had yet to see what happens when conservatives control all three branches of government, but also a country in which Democratic control of Congress depended on the votes of Southern conservatives. Today, Republicans have taken away almost all those Southern votes – and lost the rest of the country. It was, indeed, a grand ride for a while, but in the end the Southern strategy led the GOP into a cul-de-sac.
Krugman believes that Obama has room to be bold. If Republicans try a 1992-style strategy of attacking him for promoting big government, they’ll learn two things: not only has the financial crisis discredited their economic theories, the racial subtext of anti-government rhetoric doesn’t play the way it used to.
Of course Republicans will make a comeback, that’s a given. But barring some huge missteps by Obama, that's not likely to happen until they stop whining and look at what really went wrong. When and if they do that they will discover that they need to get in touch with the real “real America,” a country that is more diverse, more tolerant, and more demanding of effective government than is dreamt of in their political philosophy.
Obama has an enormous task ahead of him and while I surely wouldn’t want to be in his shoes, I do have total confidence that he has the wisdom, the courage, the foresight and the determination to lead this country out of the incredible mess we find ourselves in today due to the contempt that the Republicans have had for government in general.