As I’ve written here on previous occasions, the Republicans have been making predictions since 1993 that the policies of Democratic Presidents will cause recessions and even destroy the country. In 1993, every prominent Republican boldly prognosticated that President Clinton’s deficit reduction bill would cause a recession. Beginning shortly after his inauguration, the Republicans upped the ante and predicted that President Obama’s policies would not just cause a recession – they would ruin the country.
The GOP predictions of doom reached their apex in the multi-year debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Approximately six years ago, John Boehner contended that the ACA would cause “Armageddon” and “ruin the country.” In 2013, Ben Sasse foolishly maintained that: “If the Affordable Care Act survives, America will cease to exist. ”
State Party Chair Vince Powers and I have attempted on numerous occasions to get the press to pay attention to these ludicrous predictions and hold the GOP accountable. We aren’t just trolling the GOP when we try to hold them to account. These repeated predictions of doom and gloom from the GOP are actually very significant.
The apocalyptic predictions of disaster from the likes of prominent Republicans like Boehner and Sasse matter because many Republicans genuinely believe that America is doomed. That feeling of deep pessimism on the right means that the GOP is willing to adopt any tactic – regardless of how toxic and harmful – in what they believe to be a last ditch effort to save the country.
Many Republicans don’t only believe that America isn’t great anymore, they also believe that President Obama and the Democrats are trying to deliberately wreck the country. For example, GOP establishment darling Marco Rubio stated during his recent ill fated Presidential campaign that: “Obama had deliberately weakened America.” After the junior Florida Senator made those remarks, his spokesman was asked by a reporter if President Obama was intentionally trying to destroy the country. Rubio’s spokesman answered: “Absolutely.”
In a recent speech, President Obama brilliantly distilled the current attitude of paranoia and pessimism that pervades the Republican Party: “That the other side isn’t simply wrong, or we just disagree, we want to take a different approach, but the other side is destroying the country, or treasonous. I mean, that’s – look it up. That’s what they’ve been saying….I mean, conservative outlets have been feeding their base constantly the notion that everything is a disaster, that everybody else is to blame, that Obamacare is destroying the country. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. It’s not, ‘We disagree with this program,’ ‘We think we can do it better,’ it’s, ‘Oh, this is a crisis!’
What many people don’t seem to know or understand is that this kind of doom and gloom discourse is a regular feature on Fox News and AM radio. For example, right wing entertainer and college drop out Rush Limbaugh has alleged that President Obama is “purposely destroying the economy.” Millions of Americans – probably around 30% to 35% of the voters – imbibe this toxic message on a daily basis and are heavily influenced by it.
Rank and file Republicans aren’t the only ones that have been swayed by this allegation that President Obama is allegedly a traitor. Most GOP officeholders and candidates are equally swayed by this divisive and hateful message. That tells us why the GOP has adopted it’s strategy of all out obstruction during significant portions of both the Clinton and Obama Administrations.
This sense among the GOP that America is doomed and Obama is intentionally destroying the country has had a major impact on how the GOP governs. In 2011, the GOP threatened to stiff American’s creditors unless President Obama cut Social Security and Medicare. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this hostage crisis concocted by the GOP cost the economy 1.4 million jobs and caused a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating for the first time in our history.
The GOP resorted to sabotage again in October 2013 when they shutdown the government shortly before the ACA was implemented. Like the 2011 default threat, the 2013 shutdown hurt the American people. This ridiculous shutdown cost the economy $24 billion and 120,000 jobs.
The GOP’s pattern of scorched earth obstruction continues to the present time. As we all know, the GOP is refusing to allow an up or down vote on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. Many Republican Senators won’t even meet with Judge Garland! This is absolutely outrageous since Judge Garland is highly qualified to serve on the nation’s highest court. During the Clinton Administration while serving in the Justice Department, Garland over saw the successful prosecutions of the “unabomber” and the terrorists who attacked Oklahoma City in 1995. Beginning in 1997, Garland has served with distinction on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The U.S. is fairly exceptional among first world developed countries in that we have a Presidential system. Most other advanced countries have parliamentary systems where the same party controls both the executive and legislative branches. The U.S. system requires a certain degree of cooperation between the two parties in order for the country to be properly governed. Due to the GOP’s current extremism, it’s hard for the Congress to even pass a budget anymore – let alone address the serious problems facing the country.
Due to their deep pessimism and paranoia, the GOP has abandoned the former governing norms that allowed the wheels of government to turn. Before the Obama Administration, refusing to raise the debt ceiling or rejecting a well qualified Supreme Court nominee without even a hearing was simply unheard of. The GOP has justified this nihilism due to their deeply pessimistic attitude about the future of the country and their belief that Democrats are traitors. This misguided belief system has caused the GOP to determine that literally anything goes when it comes to opposing a Democratic President. That’s why the GOP’s predictions of Armageddon matter.
The country will be at a crossroads in the 2016. Will we return a party to power that is completely dysfunctional and whose platform would bring back the failed policies of George W. Bush? Or will the voters elect a party that has successfully turned around the economy and insured over 20 million Americans? I’m confident that the Democratic Party will have a successful election cycle in 2016. Nevertheless, we can take nothing for granted. Let’s get to work!