I admit that I was surprised back in 2009 when Republicans in Congress started stonewalling Barrack Obama. I would have thought that they would move at least a bit to the center. Instead, they threw down the gauntlet to the new president, in effect making divisive politics even more so.
BTW, this is what the Catholic Church did at the Council of Trent responding to the calls for reform by the protestant reformation. Instead of embracing the reform, the Catholic Church declared that it was different and would stay so.
So too, the Republicans declared that they are different and would stay so. But what defines them? Cynics argue that the answer is “opposition”. Whatever Obama is for, they are against. And there is some truth to this. But underneath that obstinacy is an assertion of an identity. It need not be logical, in fact, these things are at least in part emotional. But it is there.
What is it? I think it boils down to a quality that they think Ronald Regan had that Jimmy Carter did not. They are tougher than the democrats. They are the “red meat” republicans. And they need to make the case that toughness solves problems that wonky policy does not.
I think this explains why some republicans seem to be impressed by the toughness and bluster of Vladimir Putin. He speaks their language.
So if you were a democratic party strategist, how would you counter this? The current strategy is to be the “smart” party. this has been the clarion call of President Obama. And you see it in the way MSNBC presents its views. They are “smart” folks with reasoned opinions. They even use charts!. Well, charts or no charts, there is a problem here. It cedes the toughness area. Why can’t you be tough and smart? Fight for what you know is right?
This is what the current president lacks. He is smart and competent. But he seems to eschew toughness. And I expect that Hilary Clinton sees this issue and wants very much to toughen the democrats up. It is also what you see in Senator Warren of Massachusetts. I saw a bit of it watching Kentucky democratic senatorial candidate Grimes in an interview the other day. BTW, her race against fairly recently toughened up Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell may be the single most interesting to keep an eye on this autumn.
Let’s see how this shakes out. BTW, notice that all of these tough democrats are women? Interesting.