Finally, the Swaggering Republicans Are Afraid
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Meanwhile, America’s weak and disorganized Left mostly complained that Obama hadn’t delivered on everything that he should have. For his part, Obama squandered valuable time reaching out for a bipartisanship that never came, and the mainstream news media faulted him anyway for failing to achieve that bipartisanship.
So, the Right surged to electoral victories in 2010. Republicans reclaimed the House and seized control of many state governments. Senior Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, openly declared that their top priority would be to ensure Obama’s failure as President and his defeat in 2012. Part of the Republican strategy to reclaim national power was to disenfranchise blacks and other minorities by creating obstacle courses of legal impediments to voting, such as onerous voter ID laws and reduced hours.
Many top GOP operatives, including Rove, remained confident of success as late as Election Night 2012, expecting Mitt Romney to unseat Barack Obama. However, Democrats blocked many of the voter-suppression schemes and Obama marshaled an unprecedented coalition of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, women and the young to decisively defeat Romney.
In Congress, Democrats strengthened their control of the Senate and narrowed the Republican majority in the House. That GOP majority was retained only because Republicans had gerrymandered districts after the 2010 elections enabling the party to keep most seats despite losing the popular vote nationally.
During his Second Inaugural Address, Obama also made clear that he had finally forsaken the “inside game” of trying to sweet talk the Republicans into cooperation or negotiating from positions of weakness. Instead, Obama delivered a strong defense of American progressivism. He tied that tradition to the ideals of the Framers who wrote the Constitution with the intent of creating a vibrant Republic, a government of, by and for the people.
Obama’s speech and its warm reception apparently unnerved Speaker Boehner who suddenly saw something akin to an existential threat to the GOP. There were the painful election results, the nation’s shifting demographics, the newly assertive President, and hundreds of thousands of Americans again packing the Mall to celebrate Obama’s victory.
After his Inaugural Address as he stepped back into the U.S. Capitol, President Obama paused, turned around and looked back at the throngs of people waving American flags as far as the eye could see. He said wistfully, “I’m not going to see this again.”
From his seat in the Inaugural reviewing stands, Speaker Boehner saw the same impressive scene, and he may have grasped its implicit message. The large and diverse crowd personified the Obama coalition — and the mortal threat that it represents to traditional American politics, always dominated by white men of means.
Of course, the Republicans still have the Right-Wing Machine churning out propaganda to rally the party’s angry white-male base. Plus, the GOP is coming up with more new plans for minimizing the votes of black and brown people and maximizing the political clout of whites, such as a scheme in several states to apportion presidential electors based on the Republicans’ gerrymandered congressional districts.
But Boehner seems to sense that something fundamental has changed. Perhaps he was playacting a bit when he warned fellow Republicans that Obama hoped to “annihilate” the Republican Party. But – overdramatized or not – Boehner’s alarm suggests that finally it is the Republicans who are afraid.