Having followed national politics closely since President Bush was elected, I’ve never seen the Republican Party so dilapidated, confused and lost as they are today. The Republican Party looks like a stunned boxer against the ropes, anxiously waiting for a bell that just won’t ring. It’s like a parallel universe in which Muhammad Ali didn’t survive rope-a-dope.
When Mitt Romney lost the election, that was President Obama’s first punch. It felt like Republicans had the wind knocked out of them, but it was not a knock-out. Had that been the only hit, Republicans would rally together just as before, after catching their breath.
The shock-value of the hit was increased in part by many on the right, who were desperately convincing themselves they were going to win. They did so by concocting their own version of math, which was about as mathematic as intelligent design is scientific.
Watching Karl Rove try to convince his cohorts that two plus two is five on Fox News the night of the election wonderfully epitomized the conservative media’s drift from reality throughout the 2012 election (and if you are liberal and seeking a healthy dose of schadenfreude, it never gets old).
But the party’s recent “Plan B” catastrophe is something I’ve never seen from the Republican Party. And it’s the result of the “two” punch from President Obama — a devastating blow to their party of a magnitude I’ve never seen before. Ever.
I’ve always said that as awful as Republican policies are, their politics have been genius. But President Obama outsmarted them in a flatly embarrassing way. The White House played the long game, and both Republicans and Congressional Democrats alike never saw it coming.
Rewind to 2010: President Obama signed a bill extending all of the Bush tax cuts. Having recently been shellacked in the 2010 election, Democrats were devastated by the president’s willingness to extend tax cuts for the wealthy.
We ended 2010 with nothing to show for it, having lost the most resounding defeat in the House for any party since 1938 (63 seats), along with six Senate seats. The tax cut extensions seemed to be yet another huge loss for the Democrats.
But the expiration date of those tax cuts, the one thing no one thought much of at the time, was one of the shrewdest political moves in recent history.
Fast-forward to 2011: As part of the debt ceiling deal, we passed the Budget Control Act, which in part created automatically triggered spending cuts across-the-board, including military spending cuts, which President Obama heavily negotiated for in an effort to gain future leverage.
At the time, the president had to increase the debt ceiling one way or the other. There was little to gain — or so it seemed.
When would those spending cuts automatically trigger? You get the idea.
And now, both the Bush tax cuts and the triggered spending cuts are set to expire at the end of this year. Inaction would mean spending cuts for the military and tax hikes for the rich, two things that are completely intolerable in the minds of the GOP.
President Obama found a way to obstruct obstructionism. He holds the pen, and he has his demands. Inaction means tax hikes and cuts to the military. There is no refusal option for the GOP.
It’s a work of art. It’s pure political genius. Whether you come from the left or right, it’s to be admired. And Muhammad Ali, once the toughest fighter in the ring, is horizontal, asking his corner what happened.
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