Kicking The Hornet's Nest

Why the GOP's Posturing is a Gift to Obama

Republicans are trying to turn their chamber of Congress into a Slaughter House for liberal sacred cows—moving to gut funding for women's health, public broadcasting, the EPA, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, renewable energy programs, even child nutrition. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, and now, Indiana, the GOP is simultaneously launching a full frontal assault on the rights of union workers.

This is posturing; Democrats in both the Midwest and on Capitol Hill have the numbers to blunt, if not block, these initiatives. And while it may be politically satisfying to the Republican base in the short term, the GOP appears to underestimate the potential of this posturing to create blowback in 2012.

The rap on Obama is that he hasn't done enough to excite his base; the GOP won in 2010 precisely because too many Obama voters stayed home. But, by simultaneously raising the ire of nearly every faction of the Democratic base — from unionists to feminists to environmentalists to urban advocates — Republicans now seem eager to rally Obama's base for him. 

Tell me workers in Wisconsin aren't Fired Up and Ready to Go. Every feminist I know is manning the barricades to defend funding for Planned Parenthood. Hell, even that old "Save NPR funding" email forward is again in vogue. And that's before any GOP-led government shutdown denies every grandma in Florida her Social Security check.

Obama is at his strongest when can present himself, politically, as The Reasonable Man. And today's inflexible, overreaching GOP seems determined to offer the president just the foil he needs as he gears up for his 2012 reelection bid.