In the aftermath of Barack Obama’s presidential victory in 2008, a new landscape started to appear for concerned conservatives. After 40-plus years of pushing the politics in this country to the right, the inevitable push back to the left was looking more likely. Concerned over their strong conservative advances potentially being undermined, Republican politicians and their financial backers came up with a sure-fire strategy to win the White House back in 2012, but their plan has run into some problems, namely their lack of an electable candidate and their underestimation of the public’s reaction to the right’s anti-Obama, anti-social program agenda.
In the power vacuum that emerged after the second Bush administration left office in 2008, the right seemed to be mired in a level of disbelief about how, after having complete control of all levels of government a mere two years earlier, did it all seem so far in the past. Not only was the government in the hands of the left, but also the conservatives’ control over the U.S. Supreme Court was in serious jeopardy. If only one of the five conservative justices decided to retire, then the “businesses as citizens, pro unlimited election spending” rulings that have helped the right maintain control could be reversed. The right needed a game plan.
After midterm wins, blueprint’s flaws started to appear
Conservative leaders saw the ulterior motive-tinged birthers, screaming at the top of their lungs to get media attention, as potential. Focusing on a Libertarian themed political ideology, seemingly unlimited cash from right-leaning friends and the fight against health-care reform, they morphed anti-Obama and anti-left anger into the Tea Party movement, creating a pseudo grass-roots campaign that ended up fueling major political gains in the midterm elections. The right was set for the 2012 elections, but it was at this point the flaws in their blueprint for success started to appear.
The right knew the majority of presidential election coverage in 2011 would focus on the Republican candidates and the endless series of debates seeming to have been designed to create unlimited coverage of their issues. The one major problem they had was an undefined candidate, something the right hasn’t had to deal with much since 1976. The thought that one sure-fire winner would emerge in 2011, and, in turn, make 2012 a mere coronation of GOP leadership has been tripped up by un-excitement for the front runner (Romney), inexperience in politics (Cain), questionable political and moral decisions (Perry), a fringe political viewpoint (Paul), an extreme right social agenda (Bachmann), disinterest (the remaining field) and a fear of Obama’s campaign ability. As of today, the right has numerous candidates but no clear front-runner that would be able to unite the extremes of the party.
The Republicans anti-Obama strategy was simple: pass nothing he recommended and demand he and the Democrats only vote for unedited Republican bills. The idea was to make the left look like they’re the ones holding up aid for the country’s neediest, but this has been a miscalculation by the Republicans. Currently, many Americans are being hurt by the lack of jobs in this country. Many have been unemployed for years or have been forced to accept a low-wage job to replace their past middle-class wages. They struggle as they see the Republicans consistently say “NO” to any level of help. The right’s desire to defeat Obama has made them oblivious of the real pain they are causing, and has allowed the resurgence of the left’s grass-roots sector in the form of the Occupy movement.
Biggest misstep: Claiming mandates after 2010
But the largest miscalculation the right has made was to try to turn Republican wins in 2010 into mandates for extreme social change. Extreme anti-union legislation in Wisconsin and Ohio have backfired on the Republican governors who now look like political Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydes; seniors who thought they were joining the Tea Party to preserve their rights are now flabbergasted at the demands that they end Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and far right social ballot initiatives are being met with a reluctance to endorse the political agenda that is attached to them.
It’s almost as if the Republicans are acknowledging the impending swing back to the left in this country by attempting one last power grab for the conservative brass ring.
As of today, many Republicans are seeing their poll numbers drop and watching as ambivalence is settling in on their political ticket for 2012. If the right continues the major missteps of the last year, the question will become not whether Obama will win a second term, but rather how much of a landslide will the left have in a political year when they should be struggling.
Matthew McNeil is the 6 p.m. weeknight host on AM 950, KTNF.