So in order to give Reince an assist, I thought I'd break it down for him. I had to look no further than a telling quote from Senator Lindsay Graham.
Anytime you challenge the president, Obama, it’s good politics.We all know that since President Obama was elected, the Republicans in Congress have chosen a strategy of total obstruction. But what Graham added to all that is the fact that Republicans have chosen a strategy based on politics - not policy.
This was recently highlighted in a story flagged by Jonathan Bernstein. It has to do with why Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) never got around to writing a bill about loan guarantees to clean energy companies...he got distracted.
“It was a priority, and it remains an issue of interest. But Mike’s efforts shifted when he chose to focus more on holding the administration accountable with regards to [Operation] Fast and Furious. And then when the Benghazi tragedy occurred, that took the cake,” said Kelly’s spokesman, Tom Qualtere.Steve Benen - in commenting on this story - talks about the Republicans being "post-policy."
Mike Kelly couldn't even work on his own misguided-but-substantive idea because he and his party decided it didn't really matter -- they were more invested in pure politics, just positioning themselves vis-a-vis the president, and they weren't actually invested in any particular outcome for the country.All of that sounded eerily familiar. And then I remembered why. Two years ago David Roberts wrote about the Republican's "post truth politics."
Republicans thus talk about "taxes" and "spending" and "regulation" in the abstract, since Americans oppose them in the abstract even as they support their specific manifestations. They talk about cutting the deficit even as they slash taxes on the rich and launch unfunded wars. They talk about free markets even as they subsidize fossil fuels. They talk about American exceptionalism even as they protect fossil-fuel incumbents and fight research and infrastructure investments.It's true. This is why Republicans can be fairly adept at being obstructionist in the minority and a total disaster as a governing majority (see: Bush/Cheney 2000-2008).
In short, Republicans have mastered post-truth politics. They've realized that their rhetoric doesn't have to bear any connection to their policy agenda. They can go through different slogans, different rationales, different fights, depending on the political landscape of the moment. They need not feel bound by previous slogans, rationales, or fights. They've realized that policy is policy and politics is politics and they can push for the former while waging the latter battle on its own terms. The two have become entirely unmoored.
So my post-mortem is that Republicans have evolved from post-truth (hiding policy with politics) to post-policy (dumping policy altogether) in this era of total obstruction. The only remaining question is whether or not American voters are going to see the charade.
As Mark Schmitt explained years ago, that's where President Obama's conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy comes in.
One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.Since just yesterday Gallup pointed out that the number one criticism of Republicans is their unwillingness to compromise, I expect that the message is getting through.