President Barack Obama’s lackluster, let’s-work-together performance in Wednesday night’s presidential debate stoked the fears of his liberal backers that Democrats simply won’t fight for them the way Republicans relentlessly battle for their wealthier, aging, corporate constituents.
After four years of Republican intransigence – even when Democrats have championed Republican ideas – the Democratic left insists that the White House hasn’t grasped that the 2012 campaign is not about policy. So far, Republicans are proving more adept at speaking, in both coded and direct terms, to Americans’ stark demographic and psychological divisions.
That Republican nominee Mitt Romney stood before the nation and all but disowned the tax-cut, Medicare, health policy and other GOP doctrines he had campaigned on for months is likely to matter little to his backers. The last three Republican presidents, as MSNBC commentator Chris Hayes pointed out, also campaigned on promises of economic growth, deficit reduction and tax relief – and all left behind a faltering economy and ballooned deficits. What they reliably delivered was tax cuts benefiting the wealthy.
This campaign showcases the GOP’s ability to feed the anger of a large chunk of aging white Americans whose presumption of “exceptionalism” in citizenship and nationality is now being challenged by claims of equality for younger, multiracial, immigrant and “non-traditional” Americans – as represented by Obama himself.
The president’s continued invocation of “Republicans and Democrats working together” demonstrates the Democrats’ self-destructive course. Post-2008 Republicans, in both congressional votes and campaign statements, have made it clear that their goal is to destroy not just this presidency, but any concept of a society shared among a diverse, multicultural citizenry.