On June 1, in Minneapolis, the president spoke some words to supporters that ought to have left them slack-jawed. As Devin Dwyer wrote at Jake Tapper’s excellent blog, Political Punch, President Obama said last Friday that “if he wins a second term the GOP ‘fever’ of opposition to tax hikes for deficit reduction may break.” Why would the fever break? Fever is the Republican condition. Look at what they did to President Carter over the Iran hostage crisis, and what they did to President Clinton over the assault weapons ban. Has no visitor who entered the Oval Office listened to Fox Radio for half an hour in the last four years?
Obama in the same speech referred back to the better days of a Republican Party that dwelt (with whatever admixture of opportunism) somewhere in the precincts of reality: “John McCain believed in climate change. John believed in campaign finance reform. He believed in immigration reform. I mean, there were some areas where you saw some overlap.” Well, but what has been the record of John McCain on all of these issues since 2009? The example proves too much.
“In this election,” Obama conceded, “the Republican Party has moved in a fundamentally different direction. The center of gravity for their party has shifted.” Why not say that their center of gravity has become the far right, and that the far right now controls the party with no scope for disagreement? What ought to follow from that perception is that 2012 feels like a fight because it is a fight. Obama, however, drew the opposite conclusion: “I believe that if we’re successful in this election,” he told his followers, “that the fever may break, because there’s a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that.” What evidence can he show of any continuity with a Republican tradition of common sense?