President Obama's Apparent "Fiscal Cliff" strategy is the latest example of how clever political tactics are pushing conservative principles over the edge.
"I honestly believe that God put the Republican Party on earth to cut taxes" -- the late Robert Novak, conservative syndicated columnist.
I once had a good friend named Cliff. He's gone now, having passed away a few years ago. So, with all the talk of late about a fiscal cliff, quite naturally my old friend has been on my mind a bit more than usual over the past week or so. One of the things I recall about him was how often he would express the notion that "game recognizes game." It implies that anyone who's got "it" -- an unusually high level of musical skill, for example -- would, on sight, instantly recognize others who share the same skill level.
Today, I'm wondering how Cliff would have felt about a condition which defines the flip side of this notion: the " Dunning-Kruger Effect ." It describes those who are incapable of recognizing mastery and technique in others because of an inability to recognize the magnitude of what they themselves don't know.
Knowing Cliff, he perhaps would have simply called it the "Goober Effect." But whatever it may be called, it's a condition that seems to have gripped President Obama's legislative opponents over the past four years. After all, in politics deft demonstrations of political savvy are nothing new. But the way Obama has been legislatively pimp-slapping his GOP opponents over the past four years is nothing nice. We're told that politics is a science. If that's so, then where have the GOP's political atom-splitters been holed up during Obama's first term? How many more ways can the president politically outfox his adversaries? And how many more times will his opponents consent to chump themselves by playing Charlie Brown as the president plays "Lucy" with the political football?
Now, in any mix of varied sorts, I'm neither the most keen-eyed nor sharpest wit; but I'm smart enough to recognize ignorance when I see it. And from where I see it, the GOP has suffered greatly from its inability to "recognize game" in the context of the president's political savvy and therefore refused to accept the possibility that a "community organizer" might be capable of repeatedly outsmarting their Party's seasoned politicos. And the outcome of this has been a domino effect of conservative cultural setbacks being bowled over in tandem with a changing American social/cultural landscape.
Without a doubt, backlash against GOP extremism played a significant role in the president's legislative successes. It was part of the public's response to a discernible form of extremism that resurfaced like a recurrence of cancer during Obama's presidency. An extremism fueled in large part, by a familiar obsession linked to a well-known character disorder common among the stiff-necked Archie Bunker types, closeted MILF-wannabees and other assorted " Akinites " who -- during the Republican presidential debates and convention -- either cheered or booed at precisely the moment when the opposite reaction was more appropriate.
And certainly, despite Obama's successes, all's not rosy. Gitmo is still up and running; efforts to address global warming have been paltry; the "crackdown" on Wall Street depressingly light-handed; efforts to regulate gun ownership non-existent and the Bush tax cuts for the rich have managed to survive this president's first term. Moreover, any saintly aura enshrouding Obama's milestone accomplishments would be considerably dulled if the president agrees to the kind of Medicare and Social Security changes Republicans have been demanding.
Nevertheless, the transcendent nature of the era of Obama can neither be reasonably understated or adequately embellished. In both political and social terms, it's been an era of genuinely tangible historical milestones brought forth in large part by way of an approach to legislative politicking that seems almost pathological in its cageyness Since elected in 2008, the cultural impact of Obama's successful legislative maneuvering is visible writ large in American society as some significant conservative cultural sacred cows have gone, or seem set to go the way of the 8-track tape.
The enactment of "Obamacare," for example, toppled 40 years of stonewalled GOP resistance to government run health care. On immigration, a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants has been established. The creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may usher in an era of consumer protection that is contemporary to a post-Wall-Street-meltdown market, and, an historic expansion of civil rights relating to gender appears on the way to fruition.
Moreover, not only has Obama appointed two pro-choice women to the Supreme Court, thus increasing the odds against Roe v Wade being overturned, his re-election is likely to bring an end to the conservative dream of a lasting Supreme Court majority should one or more Justices retire before the next election.
And perhaps the greatest milestone is that he did it while black.
Be that as it may, Obama hardly seems content to stand pat on a transformative agenda and just float on through the next four years as a lame duck. Indeed as both Parties edge nearer to the fiscal cliff, Obama appears on the verge of completing yet another act of shrewd political maneuvering that enables the president to address deficit recovery largely on his own terms. And through this maneuvering the president -- at the time of this writing -- is perhaps only days away from crumbling another pillar of conservative philosophy: the ideological barrier that surrounds a near quarter century prohibition against raising taxes by the GOP.
"Raising rates is sort of a partisan political trophy for Obama," admitted Sen. Lindsay Graham during a December 10 interview on Fox News.
It is; but rightly so. That's because it would be yet another truly remarkable milestone. Forget Reagan's "thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican" canard. For more than a generation "NO NEW TAXES!" has been the GOP's true "11th Commandment." Not since the George H.W. era has a Republican president or member of Congress voted to raise taxes. It's a pre-Grover Norquist orthodoxy that for many years has helped the GOP win election after election both locally and nationally and which they used to run on in 2012.