Because the GOP Lacks Vision: The Case for Obama’s Reelection

Obama FDR ComparisonI am grateful that Wisconsin Congressman, Paul Ryan, the Republican tapped for the number two slot on the GOP campaign team determined to make Barack Obama a one-term President, did not turn his nomination speech into a drinking game.  Had hard-partying viewers committed to consume a shot or hit of their favorite intoxicant every time the Congressman attacked the Affordable Care Act == a.k.a. “ObamaCare” == using a blurb of unsubstantiated propaganda designed for a bumper sticker, millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans would have been hospitalized.

 But I digress.

In the wake of once Republican, now Independent, former Florida Governor, and former Florida US Senate candidate, Charlie Crist’s decision to make the case for President Obama’s reelection via an op-ed published in Florida’s largest newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times, which also just happens to be the hometown newspaper for the city hosting the (now truncated by Hurricane Isaac) 2012 Republican National Convention, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on how elections work when politics are substantive, as opposed to when voting serves as a release valve for voicing discontent.

Here is the segment of the endorsement I hope to hear him expand upon:

“As Republicans gather in Tampa to nominate Mitt Romney, Americans can expect to hear tales of how President Obama has failed to work with their party or turn the economy around… But an element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people. Look no further than the inclusion of the Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion, even for rape victims… The truth is that the party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve.”

President Obama has made a number of mistakes during his first term in office, and over the course of the political campaigns he has engaged in. Without question, it is impossible for me—for millions of immigrants and first-generation Americans—to forget, that prior to establishing Deferred Action for DREAM Act eligible youth, the case it made before the Supreme Court in opposition to Arizona SB 1070, and its efforts to use Department of Justice resources to combat Alabama HB 56, this Administration’s record on immigration was defined by the unprecedented number of deportations, record number of ICE raids, wholesale embrace of predatory enforcement policies, such as Secure Communities and 287(g), and an utter unwillingness to use discretion to prevent family separation, stop the placement of American born children in the foster care system, and protect communities on the wrong end of anti-immigrant, pro-racial profiling, hate-crime facilitating, statewide and local authorities. And don’t even get me started on the lack of effort expended to prevent violations of the Voting Rights Act, when unconstitutional maps were drawn to manipulate state legislative and Congressional representation until 2020.

My severe emotions regarding these deeply personal issues are similar to my visceral responses to President Franklin Roosevelt’s support for curfew and internment policies targeting Japanese Americans during World War II, the Repatriation of 500,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans during the Great Depression, the exclusion of Agricultural and Domestic workers from the 1935 Social Security Act, and the decision to not receive Jesse Owens at the White House, or honor him in any way, despite the fact that he defeated Adolf Hitler’s best trained, and most widely propagandized athletes, in Nazi Germany, during the 1936 Olympic Games.

Despite the mistakes of his first years in office, and on the campaign trail there is simply no possible way to deny President Obama credit as the game changing, transformative leader, who made a federal plan to guarantee universal access to healthcare services a reality. Like the New Deal, the Affordable Care Act has reset the focus of American political life, because just as FDR invested established interests into his enterprise, Obama incorporated a plurality of players from the private sector in his plan to ensure its successful implementation.

Further, since the Republican Party’s big idea for healthcare reform, born and nourished by the crown jewel of all conservative think tanks, the Heritage Foundation, was the individual mandate, and President Obama successfully incorporated that idea into his proposal, this left the GOP without any big ideas in this policy arena. And because they don’t want to delve wholesale into issues like comprehensive immigration reform, or an overhaul of the education pipeline from early childhood education to college graduation, the Republican Party is forced to argue nothing more than managerial efficiency.

For all of the pomp and circumstance preceding the 2012 Republican National Convention’s keynote address, and all of the echo chamber media spin about how bold and courageous it was, after the fact, Chris Christie’s actual words on behalf of GOP nominee Mitt Romney—which sounded like, and came off as, the launch of the New Jersey Governor’s run for the White House in 2016—were for people to literally stand up for an approach to cutting taxes, balancing budgets, renegotiating pensions, and streamlining how money is spent in schools.

The substance of his speech was, in essence, a carbon copy of H&R Block’s Second Look campaign in which the firm claims that if you let a professional look at your tax time filings they can save you money and/or get you a bigger return, despite real world evidence indicating this is not necessarily the case. This is a bookkeeper, or efficiency consultant talking, not a game changing, transformative leader. And no one expects any bolder parlance from Mitt Romney before Election Day.

The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. GOP nominee, Mitt Romney made “Day one. Job one. Repeal ObamaCare.” the core of his campaign. House Republicans engaged in political theater and voted to repeal and cut funding for President Obama’s signature healthcare bill over 30 times. Uwe E. Reinhardt, Professor of Economics at Princeton University, with financial interests in the healthcare field, went in search of a Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

After deeply investigating the matter, and even opening it up for correspondence, he concludes, “It should be clear even to non-actuaries that in this plan Medicaid would be the catch basin mainly for relatively sicker Americans, as it already is. So spare us uninformed, loose talk that asserts government-run health care is ipso facto more expensive than comparable private coverage. The fact is that the government is required to cover much higher actuarial risks than is the private sector.”

Not only are RomneyCare and ObamaCare the exact same thing, it turns out that Republicans don’t actually hate ObamaCare. Republicans—specifically the ones involved in voting, caucusing for, donating to, and/or volunteering on behalf of at least 2/3rds of the 2012 presidential field—hate Barack Obama.

There is no evidence whatsoever demonstrating this statement is hyperbole.

The GOP has emphasized Party unity, as well as consistent and unapologetic obstructionism, in one explicit mission: The purposeful, organized enterprise to deny President Obama reelection.

I agree with, Donna Brazile, that Mitt Romney’s decision to raise the specter of the 100% unsubstantiated “controversy” regarding the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s birth certificate, in a “joke,” delivered during a stump speech at a campaign rally, serves as incontrovertible proof of the deliberate use of dog-whistle racism as an element in the campaign to defeat the President. And I agree with, Ta-Nehisi Coates, that the hatred President Obama has had to confront is not some new and complicated expression of racial animus, but rather the “same old racism that once rendered the best pickings of America the exclusive province of unblackness.”

But one example is the recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows, fully 30 percent of all Republicans, and 34 percent of conservative Republicans, believe Islam, not Christianity to be President Obama’s personal faith. As Paul Waldman points out,

president obama“[It] isn’t just the kind of venom you see among the [Republican] Party’s true-believing supporters but that the hate goes so far up, all the way to the top… Mitt Romney [who recently told a birther joke] said, and not for the first time, that [President] Obama has a ‘very strange, and in some respects foreign to the American experience type of philosophy”… This antipathy has multiple sources interacting together, so it’s overly simplistic to say that it’s just because of Obama’s race… But it’s getting harder and harder to claim that there’s ever been a Democrat Republicans hated more.” And as Ben Herzigand and Farid Senzai note, “Even now in 2012 dog whistle politics is alive and well… In 2005, seeking to raise his national profile, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney publicly called for wiretapping American mosques. In a debate earlier this year, GOP contender Rick Santorum advocated religious profiling of American Muslims. Herman Cain, who at one point was atop the pack of 2012 Republican candidates, stated that he would bar American Muslims from cabinet positions… Is there some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid out there who believes he or she could be president? Perhaps… Most psychologists will agree that children are especially drawn to affiliate with successful individuals with whom they feel a sense of shared identity… American Muslims… will search for a political home. It is time… [to] treat them as loyal American citizens and less like hostile foreigners.”

That said, Barack Obama’s election to the role of Commander in Chief of a representative democracy that was founded on the institutionalized racism of the Three-Fifths Compromise, and the Naturalization Act of 1790, speaks volumes about the ability of historically marginalized, demographically diverse populations to incorporate into America’s legal, socioeconomic, political, social, and democratic systems.

The US is not a post-racial or a post-anything country, but the fact that so many people wished to view President Obama’s election through this lens, is proof of how invested millions of people are in achieving the vision articulated in his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address of America as a nation defined by E pluribus unum: Out of many, one.

After engaging in a series of discussions with Republican pundit, Lenny McAllister, as part of Politic365’s #VoiceYourVote effort to empower the “engines of America’s future to be socially conscious, politically active, and civically engaged,” what I most agree with is Theo Anderson’s assertion that the GOP hates President Obama because he represents the Democratic Party’s new vision and a measure of hope for Americans from a variety of backgrounds, in a variety of places, during a time when the Republican Party’s “big tent” is so full of hypocrisy, cynicism, and unconstructive criticism it has little room for moderates, women, people of color, or big ideas to redefine the political landscape.

Republicans hate President Obama because the successful passage and defense of the Affordable Care Act necessarily redefines American public policy for the 21st Century.

Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt, proposed a federal plan to guarantee universal access to healthcare services as part of his New Nationalism platform in 1912. He failed. Democratic President, Franklin Roosevelt, (FDR) considered adding it as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression, but was ultimately deemed too controversial considering how bitterly Social Security was opposed by his fellow Republicans—who labeled it “socialism” and “un-American”—and how prominently their opposition to Social Security figured into the campaign to prevent his reelection in 1936.He didn’t try.

Democratic President, Harry Truman, was not able to get either the House of Representatives or the US Senate to vote on the healthcare plan in his Fair Deal. To paraphrase, Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill,” since neither side of the bicameral Legislative Branch reported on President Truman’s proposal favorably—and labeled it “socialism” and “un-American”—it died in committee. Democratic President, Bill Clinton, the only Democrat to be reelected to the White House in the second half of the 20th Century, proposed a detailed plan to provide healthcare for all Americans. Not only was President Clinton’s plan defeated in Congress. It was vilified through a series of propagandist media efforts epitomized by the $20 million, yearlong, “Harry and Louise” television ad campaign. And yes, as you may have already surmised, President Clinton’s healthcare plan was labeled “un-American”; a “socialist agenda” for the national head of a “socialist party.”

President Obama’s election did not do away with the labeling of a federal plan to guarantee universal access to healthcare services as socialist and un-American. And it most certainly did not magically transform this country into a nation that celebrates its racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity; that embraces an egalitarian distribution of power through pluralism.

Nevertheless, the 44th President of the United States of America, did something that the 43 Executives before him were disinterested in doing, or unwilling, or unable to do.

A game changer is a visionary who changes the way that something is done, thought about, or made. A transformative leader changes not only the trajectory of an individual entity, but how an entire system operates. By passing and defending the Affordable Care Act, President Obama proved himself to be a game changer and a transformative leader.

And that, above all else, is the reason why Republicans hate him the most.

But it’s not why the GOP has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness Americans deserve.

Despite its fetishization of the Founding Fathers, and its nostalgia for heroic leaders who stood up for Party principles in the past, the GOP no longer shows any signs of being the Party of the Illinois Rail Splitter, a.k.a. Honest Abe Lincoln. It lacks the desire to address deep divisions along class, race, religion, legal status, generation, gender, and sexual identity that affirm the veracity of the words, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” It shows zero willingness to propose 21st Century solutions for 21st Century challenges. Unlike President Lincoln’s GOP, this Party has abandoned any effort to reconcile a divided Union; lacks a vision for the future.

To paraphrase Scripture, Republicans without “that vision thing” shall only win elections through changing voter ID requirements, restricting voter registration drives, and reducing early voting periods.

Those invested in, and willing to fight for, the heart and soul of the GOP would be wise to heed President Lincoln’s wise words:

unai montes-irueste

“We can succeed only by concert. It is not ‘can any of us imagine better?’ but, ‘can we all do better?’ The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise—with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Unai Montes-Irueste

Posted: Thursday, 30 August 2012

Photographs: White House photographer Pete Souza.

Published by the LA Progressive on August 30, 2012
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About Unai Montes-Irueste

Unai Montes-Irueste has worked as a social media strategist, policy
analyst, management consultant, nonprofit executive, community
organizer, and public school teacher, seeking to elevate the capacity
of individuals, organizations, and communities to make change. As a
social-political-racial-economic justice champion, he advocates on
behalf of high quality, Pre-K through college, publicly funded,
equitable education for all.