President Who???

I talked yesterday about the extent to which the electoral math continues to be stacked in the direction of the GOP. Today I want to talk about another dynamic that also advantages the GOP: the question of what constitutes legitimate presidential power. This has become perhaps the most glaring double-standard in American politics today, allowing Republican presidents to get away with shit that Democratic presidents can only dream of. When Bush attacked Iraq, we were told by right-wing ideologues that we had to support the president or be declared unpatriotic.  Of course, I can’t help but remember that back in the 1990s Rush Limbaugh and his ilk showed no such forbearance to Clinton in his Bosnian adventures, and I distinctly recollect how mercilessly they attacked him any time he went after Bin Laden.  (Though now they castigate him for allowing him to get away.)

But that’s the nature of a double-standard.  The real question is what’s driving it, and I think part of the answer lies in the fact that the GOP is far more adroit than the Democrats are at manipulating cultural symbols like the flag (and the Bible, for that matter).  Keep in mind, too, that the core of the GOP is far more comfortable with autocratic ideation than the Democrats ever will be (partially because so much of the GOP base would clearly prefer a theocracy to a republic, so it comes naturally to them).  Indeed, foreign wars are often the vehicle via which democracies slide toward dictatorships:  this is a dynamic which we see clear hints of in the GOP’s calling Obama a terrorist, etc.  (And check out the latest campaign incident in which a McCain crowd turned ugly and was ready to start kicking some peacenik ass.)

So the GOP reserves for itself a view of executive power that borders on the monarchial . . . as long as the sitting president is Republican.  But if the president isn’t—and this is the really dangerous part—then the very legitimacy of his holding office is immediately called into question.  Clinton was the first to feel the brunt of this attack, but that’s likely to be a drop in the bucket compared to what a President Obama would face (already the more vitriolic of McCain’s supporters are declaring that he “wouldn’t be my president.”).  This is one more reason why Obama has to hope he doesn’t just win, but that he wins big, lest a close victory be a Pyrrhic one.  When Republicans win the Oval Office with a 50.00000000001% majority (or even when they fail to attain a majority) they can declare a mandate, whereas a Democrat can only declare the same when he has a landslide big enough to bury the Himalayas. Confused?  You’re clearly just not patriotic enough, you #$# traitor.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.