GOP House speaker John Boehner is making a strained effort to check House Republicans in their hell-bent charge against President Obama on the budget, continued government funding and their pet loathing, the Affordable Care Act. His effort is fruitless for one simple reason. The Tea Party, which backed House Republicans loudly, and the GOP establishment quietly, will never shed their obsessive dream of making the Obama presidency a failed presidency.
GOP leaders in and out of Congress have been relentlessly hectored, harangued, badgered and even politically threatened by GOP ultra-conservatives to not give an inch on any issue that Obama proposes. This applies to issues that in years past they would have led the charge to approve. This was plainly evident in the noisy GOP protests over Obama's threat to attack Syria. Who, in their wildest fantasies, would have thought that Sarah Palin, of all people, would pithily say "let Allah sort it all out" in opposing a Syrian attack.
This was no aberration or accident. Palin spoke for the hard right faction in the GOP that controls the House and a big chunk of the GOP's base. If it had been President Bush making the identical attack proposal, with the exception of possibly a handful of libertarian leaning GOP backers, they almost certainly would have cheered the prospect of a strike. But it wasn't Bush. It was Obama. There is undoubtedly a racial edge to much of their fury against Obama. From time to time, a GOP official, top backer, or anti-Obama protestors will show their hand by regaling Obama with border line racially insulting name calling, and depictions of him. But even if they did not race bait, and confined themselves solely to hitting Obama on political issues, it wouldn't change another fact.
The GOP has read the political tea leaves and knows that for now there is little chance of taking back the White House in 2016. And though the likelihood is good they'll retain their majority rule in the House, the Senate is no sure bet to take back in 2014. The one possible game changer is to continue to paint Obama as inept, indecisive, and ineffectual. The hope is that this relentless negative typecasting will fire up GOP supporters, dispirit enough Democrats, and anger enough voters to sow doubts about Democrats. The GOP got some traction out of the Syria crisis, when the overwhelming majority of Americans voiced strong opposition to an attack. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll even found that the GOP had gained some ground with the public at the expense of Democrats on the public's perennial worry about America's direction. They even had an edge over the Democrats on foreign policy handling, and of all things the economy and health care.
The GOP will ride this gust of more favorable public opinion to dither, delay and obstruct even more intensely the implementation and funding of health care reforms, tax and budget proposals, and regulatory reforms that still need bipartisan cooperation to pass. This is crucial since Obama needs to strike deals and make compromises with the GOP to get anything done in Congress. That necessity is even more compelling given the coming, potentially rancorous battle over the debt ceiling, immigration reform, spending cuts, and reforms of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A prolonged war with the GOP that results in the White House getting little or none of its legislative agenda through Congress runs the risk of souring public opinion not just on the GOP but the White House. This has been the bane of other presidents during their second term and has marred their legacy.
Then there's the power of money. The GOP still has plenty of it. Its Super Pacs and mega funders have bankrolled ads on the Fox Network blasting the Affordable Care Act. No other issue is intimately tied in the public mind to Obama as closely as is his health care act. Though the GOP stands almost no chance of defunding the Act, its ferocious targeting of it drives home the point that this is a measure that many want to see scrapped, and that the only thing supposedly standing in the way of that is Senate Democrats and Obama. In any case, it's another fail safe ploy to tar the administration.
The GOP's greatest weapon is the frozen political divide in the country. Nearly 50 percent of the nation's voters not only did not support Obama in 2012, but expressed total contempt for his policies and his administration. The GOP banks that it can swivel this divisiveness into sustained opposition to those policies, and that it can buy enough time with that until the 2014 midterm elections and further boost its numbers in the House and especially the Senate.
The notion that the GOP was well on its way to becoming a non-entity in national politics was delusional thinking. Its cynical mix of money, political one-upmanship, set-in-stone ideology, and racial bigotry toward an African-American president, insures that the GOP will continue to come at Obama with its political guns blazing. The aim never changes and that's to make Obama's presidency a failed presidency.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. His latest ebook '47 Percent Negro': A Chronicle of the Wackiest Racial Assaults on President Obama is now available (Amazon).