Commentary: How President Obama Killed the Republican Party

Commentary: How President Obama Killed the Republican Party

As seen over the last few weeks in the Obamacare fight, the GOP is a sad, leaderless political party with no moral compass and no direction.

Published October 18, 2013

Just how bad was the past two weeks for Republicans? After closing down the government for 16 days and threatening to unleash economic catastrophe on the world, they got nothing for their efforts.

They tried to repeal Obamacare. They failed. They tried to defund Obamacare. They failed. They tried to delay Obamacare. They failed. They tried to delay the individual mandate. They failed. They tried to repeal the medical device tax in Obamacare. They failed. They tried to repeal the law's employer contribution for congressional staff. And again they failed.

They got nothing from the deal except for a vague promise from the White House to verify the incomes of people who receive subsidies under the law and a curious last minute "Kentucky Kickback" which gives Mitch McConnell's home state a $2 billion earmark he claims he didn't ask for. Yeah, right.

The debacle was so bad that Republicans hit historic lows in public approval and incumbent House Republicans now trail Democrats in 22 of 36 congressional districts in a new poll. And it was so devastating that the ring leader of the GOP circus, Senator Ted Cruz, was denounced by his own hometown newspaper, The Houston Chronicle, which questioned its own endorsement of him.

The great irony is that the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans spent two weeks trying to block, was never in danger and actually became more popular because of their government shutdown, leading GOP Congressman Peter King to complain that "no one has done more" to strengthen Obamacare than Ted Cruz.

Sadly, the whole ordeal was as preventable as it was predictable. But the Republican base is no longer governed by reason. Instead, it is animated almost entirely by its hatred of President Obama. As a result, the GOP today stands for little more than its complete and total opposition to the nation's first African-American president.

With no coherent principle other than their opposition to Obama, Republicans have desperately flailed around grasping onto one life preserver after another the past few weeks, just hoping to stay afloat long enough not to drown in the sea of their own twisted rhetoric. That's why we've seen a stunning level of inconsistency in their arguments.

One day they force a government shutdown. The next day they deny they ever wanted a shutdown. One day House Republicans refuse Senate Democrats offer for a budget conference. The next day they stage a photo-op at a half-empty conference table to complain that Democrats won't meet with them. One day they won't accept any budget deal that includes new revenue. The next day they accuse President Obama of being inflexible. One day they claim no one will notice a government shutdown because government doesn't do anything. The next day they complain about the government shutdown because national monuments and federal parks are closed.

This is the level of delusion they've embraced. They've spent the past few weeks bizarrely changing the goal posts from day to day, unable to unify their own caucus or to develop a single consistent message. So instead they lied, and each day they changed the lie to fit the circumstances.

Perhaps it was fitting irony, then, that the GOP's cynical ploy finally backfired at the battle of the World War II Memorial. Yes, while hundreds of thousands of federal workers and government contractors remained furloughed with no pay, Republicans were busy worrying about a monument. So when a group of World War II veterans arrived to visit the memorial one day, every Tea Party clown from Michele Bachmann on down raced across the mall to greet and exploit them.

The GOP spent two weeks fighting the battle of the memorial, claiming falsely that national memorials remained open during their last government shutdown in 1995, until someone in the media finally noticed news photos of the same memorials barricaded 18 years ago. True the World War II Memorial wasn't closed back then, but that's only because it didn't exist yet. It wasn't completed until 2004.

Republicans launched their final attack with a rally at the memorial led by Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, the heroes of the anti-government right ironically complaining about their inability to access a government service.

Here they go again with the inconsistent messaging. One day they block a veterans' jobs bill. The next day they demand to re-open a veterans’ memorial. Throw enough crap on the wall and hope that some of it sticks.

But something went badly wrong at the GOP's last stand. Protesters vandalized the memorial, stole the barricades, carried them across town and then threw them at the fence of the White House, all in front of a proudly waved Confederate flag. The incident was so bad that the veterans' group that sponsored it had to issue a statement denying any ties to the Tea Party clowns that had exploited them.

With no more ammunition to fire, Republicans finally surrendered Wednesday night, allowing the government to reopen and pay its bills. This revealed the final inconsistency. One day Speaker Boehner claimed there weren't enough votes to reopen the government. The next day, the final day, it sailed through the chamber by a 285-144 vote, a loud rebuke to Boehner's prediction.

This is a sad, leaderless political party with no moral compass and no direction. But it wasn't actually President Obama who destroyed the GOP. They did it to themselves. So strong was their hatred for this president that they were willing to do anything or say anything to stop him, even when it contradicted their own alleged principles. Even if it meant their own political suicide.

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes commentary for each week.

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Written by Keith Boykin


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