The 2012 presidential campaign is over, but not for President Obama. The community organizer turned Senator turned president, who ran on hope and change in 2008 and its antipode character assassination in 2012, has no intention of putting politics behind him. Rather, he is seeking to wage a total war against the Republicans for their political immiseration.
Total war is a two-pronged approach to battle: first, mobilizing the entire population for the war effort; and second, targeting the entire enemy population, not just its military. Examples from World War Two include German submarine attacks on merchant ships and passenger ships, the blitz over London, the Allied bombing of Dresden, and the use of atomic bombs against Japan.
Following his reelection, beneath the veil of his public bipartisan insouciance, Obama’s actions adumbrate his intention to wage total war against the GOP. The signs could not be clearer.
First, the fiscal cliff. On the heels of his re-election victory, Obama ignored fiscal reality and refused any spending cuts or entitlement reforms. He then refused to negotiate and ignored the recommendations of his own fiscal commission, and then accused the GOP of bad faith and worse motives.
Then, the president gave the most partisan and least conciliatory inaugural address in recent memory. An address bereft of good will and chock full of straw men and obloquy for the opposition, the president made clear that his mission will be the expansion of the welfare state, the destruction of his opposition, and the establishment of a permanent class of government dependents. The era of big government is back, forever.
Further, the Obama campaign apparatus remains active. The Obama Victory Fund 2012, in partnership with Obama for America, the official campaign vehicle, continues agitating and organizing on the president’s behalf under the guise of a new entity, “Organizing for Action,” most recently asking email recipients to call Congress in support of Obama’s gun control legislation.
What can we expect from Organizing for Action? Given that former Obama campaign Chairman Jim Messina is chairman of the new group, Organizing for Action augurs more of the same from the 2012 campaign: mud slinging, character assassination and class and race divisions.
Obama’s second-term cabinet appointments reflect this reality. This year, Obama has nominated cabinet appointees known not for their bipartisan accomplishments, respected reputations, or independent judgment. That was 2008, when Obama nominated Larry Summers and Ray LaHood and retained Bob Gates. The second term cabinet is shaping up to be a coterie of loyal attack dogs (Kerry, Hagel, Jack Lew, etc.) who will report to the political central command, the Oval Office, and with dispatch carry out Obama’s sorties against the GOP.
In view of the foregoing, it is clear that Obama is eschewing the Clinton model of triangulation and consensus. There will be no negotiating with Congressional opposition, and therefore no large scale accomplishments like welfare reform or a balanced budget in Obama’s second term. What is the GOP to do?
First, recognize the total war that is upon them. In the face of an all out assault on the GOP, now is no time to go soft. The GOP must realize that the campaign for 2014 is already under way, and the GOP is again playing from behind in terms of organization, fundraising, and momentum. (See Organizing for Action, above).
Second, the GOP must speak as a more cohesive unit, and include new mouthpieces outside the District. Accomplished Republican governors who have wrestled with the policies at issue in Obama’s second term (immigration, healthcare, gun control) must be part of the national conversation. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are known entities. New voices with successful records must be relied on to combat the Obama assaults.
Third, on specific legislation, the GOP must speak first and speak often, and frame their positions in terms of practical, positive results for all Americans of all races, genders, and income levels. If the 2012 election proved anything, it’s that rhetoric and demonization trumps substance. Therefore, the GOP must improve the rhetoric used to convey its ideas.
Total war ends when one side has been pummeled into total submission and loses the will to fight. For the GOP and for the future prosperity of the country, losing the will to fight is not an option. The only way to survive Obama’s assault is to resist him often and prevail in the 2014 midterms. In the interim, the GOP must man the barricades, because the battle is joined and will not cease until January 20, 2017.