Politics: Obama's masterful war against GOP strawmen

Published by: Dan Calabrese on Tuesday January 22nd, 2013

Dan Calabrese

By DAN CALABRESE - And straw policies.

I guess I already knew this, but something struck me about Obama's inaugural address yesterday, especially as I read the transcript this morning. The reason Obama succeeds politically is that he has done a masterful job of setting up Republican strawmen - and straw policies - to use as his foils. And real Republicans do little but flail away helplessly in response.

Here is the Republican Party that Obama has created, and has convinced a majority of independent voters is the real thing:

  • The party that hates women.
  • The party that hates gay people.
  • The party that doesn't want to help anyone in need.
  • The party that wants endless war.
  • The party that will do anything to stop the poor and the middle class from improving their lives.
  • The party that opposes building infrastructure.
  • The party that hates public employees, especially teachers, police and firefighters.
  • The party that doesn't want you to have sex.

Does that sound like anyone you know? Does that sound like any Republican you've ever voted for? Does that sound like any commentator you read? Does that sound like any thoughts you've ever had?

Me neither. And to be honest, I don't even think most liberals believe that's the real Republican Party - at least not the ones who pay the slighest attention. I do think a fair number of media members think that's the real Republican Party, because they rarely talk to anyone except other journalists and friendly political pundits, so their frame of reference is a bit limited.

But they're in the tank anyway, although they play an important role. The independent voter who needs to buy this crap, if Obama's gambit is to work, is the low-information voter who spends little time reading or watching news, and is more focused on pop culture and self-indulgence. These are the people who are much more likely to read Vogue, Cosmopolitan or People than National Review, Huffington Post or this web site. They don't think about policy in the same way you and I do. They don't know the particulars of the nation's fiscal situation. They don't know how much about the tax code. They don't know what the whole fiscal cliff thing was really all about. They just know that they keep hearing things that bother them about Republicans - that they're intolerant, that they "hate" certain people, that they don't like minorities and women, that they're uptight and puritanical about sex, that they favor the well-off over the needy.

Obama, on the other hand, is totally cool!

If people like this make up 20 percent of the electorate, than you need to get 11 or 12 of the 20 on your side to win nationally. Right now, I'd say 12 or 13 of the 20 are buying what Obama's selling, and they see the Republican Party exactly as the strawmen Obama says they are. They believe the Republican Party advocates the straw policies listed in the bullets above, because Obama says it and the media they listen to repeats it, and that's all they hear so that's what they think.

Now, this still begs the question: Why has the Republican Party pathetically allowed this to be done to them? Why do they keep letting Obama whack them in the ass like Chip Diller in Animal House, only to wince and say, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

I'll tell you why. Because the Republican Party can't counter this crap with any sort of positive answer. They left too many problems unsolved when they had the chance between 2001 and 2006, and even now they're not really advocating a serious message of growth and prosperity. I disagree with those who don't want to talk about spending cuts because it comes off as "austerity." We are spending too much and we do need to cut it. But growth and prosperity answers every charge Obama makes. Right  now, not enough of the nation believes that's what the Republican Party wants. We don't have an effective leader - at least one one that everyone has rallied behind (I think Paul Ryan could be) - that the nation recognizes as the advocate for these things.

Also, we're not willing to defend the good things about the Bush record because Republican consultants say (and the media confirm) it's toxic to mention his name, so all we're left with is Reagan nostalgia - and the twenty-something female who's counting the minutes until American Idol comes on doesn't give a crap about that old coot.

Obama pretty much spent his entire inaugural address flogging this strawman, and enough people are buying it that he's controlling the political dialogue and setting the agenda in this country. That's exactly how he's winning, and I don't think the Republican Party has a clue what to do about it.

Dan is also an author, and not of political books. He writes Christian spiritual thrillers, and you can find out more by liking his Facebook page.