Before the election, President Obama would occasionally get asked about what Americans should expect regarding the political environment if he won a second term. His response was always the same: his re-election would help break the Republican “fever.”
As a campaign strategy, the response certainly made sense. Voters probably wouldn’t have responded well if the president had said, “Yep, Republicans are stark raving mad, there’s nothing I can do about it, and everyone should expect at least two years of brutal gridlock in which the GOP forces us to endure a series of painful crises of their own making.”
But as a practical matter, Obama’s rhetoric, whether he believed it or not, was wrong. Kevin Drum had a compelling summation of the last six weeks, noting that Republicans have:
* Shamefully smeared Susan Rice in order to prevent her nomination as secretary of state.
* Shown themselves completely unwilling to compromise with President Obama over fiscal cliff legislation.
* Begun a campaign to block the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.
* Almost unanimously refused to set up state healthcare exchanges to implement Obamacare.
I’d add a couple more. Since the election, the top Republican in the House and Senate have both said they intend to initiate another debt-ceiling crisis, threatening to hurt Americans on purpose unless their demands are met, and prominent Republican leaders in Congress responded to a nightmarish elementary school shooting by declaring that they will not consider any new gun laws.
All of this comes on the heels of a cycle in which Republicans lost badly, up and down the ballot. GOP officials have responded to this public rejection by getting worse – become more extreme, more intemperate, and less open to compromise.
Election Day was supposed to be a wake-up call for the Republican Party. Instead, they hit the snooze button, preferring their imaginary dream land – the one in which they and their ideas are held in high regard – to the reality the rest of us live in.