That’s what he said in mid-November, 2008. A colleague was expressing his fondest hope for the newly elected president. What is most significant about this is that he didn’t say that he disliked the president’s policies or that he fervently wished that they would not become law. He did not hope for a resolute senate that would moderate President Obama’s initiatives. He stated clearly that he hoped that the president would fail.
I put my best effort into making sense of that, of seeing his comments in a constructive light. I imagined that this colleague was simply saying that he preferred a conservative world, so he didn’t want to see progressive/liberal ideas become successful. That thinking refused to last, though, as the full depth of this guy’s meaning sunk in. He really wanted a failed president and presidency.
His is the point at which present day conservatism departs from traditional conservatism, and from patriotism, as well as from any semblance of good sense. How could a true conservative want to see our institutions fail? How could a true patriot want his president to fail? And where in the world did good sense go in wishing for America to fail?
Weirdly, the Republicans hate President Obama more than they love America. They killed the jobs bill, they took the country over the fiscal cliff, they threatened national default, they dragged feet on providing disaster relief from Hurricane Sandy – the list goes on and on and all of the crazy stuff that was designed to make the president fail instead hurt the economy, veterans, job seekers, homeowners, workers, the elderly and even the world economy.
Don’t bother trying to find refuge in this “hoping that the president fails” business by seeing it as solely that of my former colleague or just within the R’s in congress or the far right talking heads. A recent poll showed that 40% of Republicans want the president to fail. Clearly, a lot of them don’t care who else gets hurt by their destructive attitude, as they pursue their agenda of hate.
The real problem is that they don’t just hate the president’s policies. In fact, the R’s themselves introduced and supported many of those same policies that would have helped Americans, right up to the moment when President Obama agreed with them. Then they beat a retreat and shifted into name-calling and derision. It wasn’t about policy at all: It was about hating and wanting to defeat President Obama. For the R’s, that overrode everything else.
Some say that’s race-based, and surely some of the obstruction answers that description. The R’s did the same kinds of things, though, to Bill Clinton. Remember that Speaker Newt Gingrich shut down the government while trying to neuter Clinton. They launched investigations into everything that happened during the Clinton Administration, effectively tying up much of the executive branch resources and the president’s attention.
That’s the single strategy in the Republican playbook: oppose anything a Democratic president supports, national consequences be damned. Our country is tied up in knots by people who don’t care how badly the rest of us suffer, by politicians and pundits who have lost their focus on a better America and instead are focused on destruction.
There was precious little many of us found to support during the eight years of the presidency of George W. Bush, but I never heard anyone hope for his failure. You might want to mention that the next time you hear someone voice a belief in the equivalency of the political parties in their craziness. That 40% of Republicans who want the president to fail are clear about what they hate. Try asking them what in America they love and support. See if they can get past their vitriol. I bet they can’t.
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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