Remember when Republicans in the House threw a hissy fit over the Fiscal Cliff package and refused to vote on an aid package for the states devastated by Hurricane Sandy? President Barack Obama remembers it, and he’ll be banking on similar results for at least the next year and change, leading up to next November’s mid-term elections. You see, when Republicans in the House stalled the Sandy relief bill, they didn’t just send a middle finger to Obama, but to the states, governors and Congressional members in Sandy’s path of destruction. Blaming that ever present excuse of “too much pork barrel spending,” Republicans put the brakes on the bill. Of course, most of that pork was aimed at helping red states, but who’s counting?
Beyond that hypocrisy, the Tea Party contingent of the GOP has ripped the band-aid off the gaping head wound that the party suffers from. There are Republican members of the House that represent states that President Obama won last year, meaning they represent true moderates, people who will put a Republican in Congress and a Democrat in the White House. Or at least if they aren’t moderate, they love to play high-stakes chicken with their elected officials. Pandering to the Tea Party has set up a Republican Civil War, one I’ve written about extensively, but with the makeup of the Blue State Republicans Vs. The Red State Republicans, it truly is a “North versus South” thing again..or rather “North-East versus South.”
Those Blue State Republican members of the House and Senate have to answer not so much to Tea Party candidates, but to Obama voters. There are clearly enough of them in the states in question to make life miserable for any Republican who toes the party line on gun control. Knowing that 85% of Americans polled by Pew support the exact kinds of measures President Obama proposed to Congress and also enacted by way of executive privilege, those Republicans in the northeast are truly stuck between a rock and a hard place, but if they value their future political career, they will continue to break with their party, as they did with the Fiscal Cliff deal, setting up a different sort of super-majority for the President, one that will likely continue to include those Republicans that voted in favor of the deal.
A divided Republican Party was inevitable. In a country our size, with a population so diverse, and the concentration of true, Neoconservatism in the red states, it would only make sense that as you push away from those areas the zealotry quickly fades. Let’s also not forget the most populated states tend to be blue states, with just Texas and Florida (depending on the election) among the top seven most populated states. The reality is that despite what the pundits and elected officials say, our country is polarized but not to the extent that they make it out to be. We are indeed a purple nation. My state, California, has two extremely progressive Senators, the most liberal of governors, a super majority of Democrats in both the state House and Senate, and yet still we have multiple Republicans in the House of Representatives. The “melting pot” that is America makes for a dichotomy of thought and ideology, but with far more common ground than we are led to believe.
So as we’re seeing, the concentration of Tea Party power lies in the reddest of red states, though on many issues the GOP remains fervently linked. However, as Hurricane Sandy, the Fiscal Cliff, and now gun control and the Fiscal Cliff are showing us, it doesn’t take a strong gust to knock that house of cards over. The Koch Brothers, the billionaire backers of the Tea Party have just said they do not support the Republican effort to hold the Debt Ceiling hostage. Which should mean more caving by Republicans.
And now, as President Obama signs in twenty-three executive orders on gun control, and as he sends a wide-sweeping gun regulation bill proposal to Congress, we should see further eroding of the Tea Party and the NRA to boot. For starters, none of Obama’s orders have anything to do with sweeping through the nation and confiscating every gun. That alone ensures that gun zealots won’t have a leg to stand on in their cries of usurpation of power or trampling of the Constitution. Secondly, the NRA’s response to Sandy Hook, to blame everything but guns and suggest that only armed guards in schools will fix the systemic failure of our country to address gun violence adequately, has finally revealed the mad man behind the curtain, The Great and Terrible LaPierre.
The Vice-President did spectacular work, bringing together a set of doable regulations that do not overreach. If nothing else, the proposals from the President will serve as a great opening position in the bargain. It’s a bargain though that ultimately will put Obama on top. The President’s remarks before he signed the executive orders deserves credit as well. It was very clear that the President understood the nature of the question of gun control. It was very clear that he knows how far to reach and where to set the bar for Congress. He spoke of the Second Amendment with respect, not disdain.
Obama gave gun zealots nothing to seize upon, nothing to point to as a power grab. Instead, he closed his remarks with one of the most brilliant and poignant prose of his first term.
“This is the land of the free, and it always will be. As Americans we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But we’ve also long recognized, as our founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities.
Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We don’t live in isolation. We live in a society, a government for and by the people. We are responsible for each other. We have the right to worship freely and safely; that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The right to assemble peacefully; that right was denied shoppers in Placimus (ph), Oregon, and moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado.
That most fundamental set of rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, fundamental rights that were denied to college students at Virginia Tech and high school students at Columbine and elementary school students in Newtown; and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent basis to tolerate; and all the families who never imagined they’d lose a loved one to — to a bullet, those rights are at stake. We’re responsible.”
Sandy Hook was not just another massacre. It was a tipping point. Sure, perhaps some of these measures have been tried before, but most certainly many have not, especially those that deal with mental health, gun violence research, and the magazine capacity ban. Obama, having just won re-election and a decisive trench battle over a key fiscal “crisis” was emboldened and now the real intrigue begins. It’s no secret that Obama is banking on the internal strife within the GOP to lock-down certain concessions and make progress on key agenda items. As it turns out, the Republicans are more than willing to oblige. I would expect a vote on the package delivered to Congress by the White House to look very similar to the Fiscal Cliff deal in the House, with probably a lot more Republican Senators voting against the bill.
No, Republicans, Barack Obama is not the one dividing you. That’s your job, and these tough economic times, no one should lose their job.
But you can count on him taking full advantage of the divide, and 2014 is not that far away. Just as a heads-up.