by Chez Pazienza
In the dead of night, while many of us slept last night, Republicans voted to begin stripping 30-million people of their health insurance. What began as the promise of a marathon session for a famously lazy Congress ended with a measure being passed that would begin dismantling the ACA, or Obamacare, President Obama’s signature legislation, which enabled millions of Americans to finally get the healthcare they needed. The 51-48 vote was split almost exclusively along party lines and could see Obamacare repealed as early as next month. Donald Trump says the plan will be to replace the ACA immediately, insisting it’ll be “complicated stuff” but genuinely having no idea how ambitious to the point of ridiculous such action sounds given that the GOP has no idea what exactly to replace Obamacare with. But that was never the point anyway. Sure, Mitch McConnell, smiling the giddy smile of a man who had his first hard-on in memory, prattled on about how the GOP’s vote would “act quickly to bring relief to the American people,” but make no mistake: this was never about the American people and it absolutely wasn’t about bringing anyone relief, since the Republicans will be doing exactly the opposite.
This was about erasing the legacy of Barack Obama. Nothing more, nothing less.
Keep in mind, throughout the Obama presidency — soon to be known universally as the “good old days” — Republicans returned to Obamacare again and again and again, voting unsuccessfully to to repeal it more than 60 times. There’s been no greater expression of the conservative grudge against Obama than the relentless attempt to destroy the ACA. At no point, even throughout all this time, has the GOP had anything approaching a cogent plan to replace the Obama legislation that provided millions with private health insurance. The goal was simply to crush that legislation so that the enemy they inexplicably despise with the fire of a thousands suns — someone they said from the very beginning they would rather obstruct than compromise with — would see the accomplishment he was most proud of fall. It was always an act of political pettiness rather than one based on any kind of ideology (other than the one that sits at the center of modern conservative thought: that a popular Democrat can never, under any circumstances, be allowed a victory of any kind).
President Obama leaves office with a pretty impressive approval rating — 56%. In other words, despite everything the GOP threw at him and regardless of the unthinkable choice enough voters made in November that will see a know-nothing madman and Russian stooge like Trump sworn in on January 20th, the country liked Obama and continues to. This isn’t a surprise. Obama was and is a sober and serious man and he provided a calm, steady hand that he used to steer us back from the brink of oblivion eight years ago and into relative prosperity. As much as the conservative rage zombies would like to believe otherwise and despite all the lunatic conspiracy theories they tried to make into reality, Obama is the only two term president in recent memory to leave office having suffered through exactly zero scandals. He comported himself with class and dignity, as did his family — and it’s this precisely that has infuriated his adversaries both within government and without. They kept waiting for him, the first black president, to fit some ugly, unscrupulous and chaotic stereotype — and he never did. He was always “No Drama Obama.”
He’s going to be remembered by history as one of our presidential greats. There will be schools and naval vessels named after him. There will be monuments in his honor. His face will show up on money.
But none of this will happen if the GOP has anything to say about it.
The Republican establishment can’t stand the idea that Obama is as popular as he is, the same way it couldn’t stand that Bill Clinton was as popular as he was when he left office, in spite of his own faults and all that was done to destroy him. Obama, though, has a special place in the hearts and minds of Republicans because he’s not only been a great president, but he’s been a great president — one, again, largely above reproach — who also represented the changing face of America and therefore the loss of authority for the traditional GOP base: white, male Christians who can’t stop bitching about how this is their country, owed to them by birth. They spent a substantial portion of his presidency trying to delegitimize him: either openly implying that he was a foreigner and a terrorist sympathizer or simply enabling those who thought as much because it benefitted them politically. They consistently threw his offers of compromise back in his face as if he were something far more nefarious than a centrist Democrat.
They behaved like petulant children. And yet Obama still accomplished so much. He never gave in to their pettiness and in the end he came out on top, with the approval of most Americans, a record of progress, and the history books open and waiting.
This is why the goal of these churlish babies isn’t just to put their stamp upon the government and American society at large, it’s to strike Barack Obama’s name from the records. To undo everything he did. To, as best they can, make it as if he’d never even existed.
To understand why this is, it’s necessary to understand how modern conservatives think not only about Obama specifically but about the presidency in general. In their mind, as with the country that’s the traditional dominion of white Christian conservatives, the White House is theirs — it belongs to them. The default setting is that Republicans are in control. When they’re not, then, the person who occupies that seat is automatically illegitimate. He or she doesn’t belong, because it’s GOP property. That’s the natural order. It used to be that our government went back and forth between competing ideologies, but since both major parties were willing to compromise with one another — approaching each issue with the goal of winning a small partisan victory but always an overall larger victory for America as a whole — the transition was one of honor and respect. When one party considers itself the singular custodian of the country, though, that can’t happen. So you get what we have now, with the GOP treating the Obama era as a mistake, Obama himself as an interloper, and his achievements as illegal and invalid.
With that in mind, there’s only one course of action — to course-correct, to undo the “damage” done by the trespasser who never should’ve been allowed in the Republicans’ house to begin with. This is how they think. This is why Barack Obama must be erased, his name, image and accomplishments stricken from the record, and his legacy dropped down the memory hole.
But that’s not going to happen, for several reasons, the first of which is that their ruthless thirst for power has crescendoed with possibly the most short-sighted screw-up the GOP has ever made: backing an unconscionable disaster like Donald Trump simply to secure the White House. Because Trump is going to go down in flames — and he’s going to take the GOP with him. Trump will fail so spectacularly that he may very well render the Republicans radioactive for the rest of their ignominious existence, provided they survive his implosion at all. The second reason the GOP crusade against Obama won’t work is that his history is already written. Obama will be legendary and there isn’t a damn thing they can do about it. In fact, he’ll be even more popular and well-regarded when compared to the buffoonish, Vladimir Putin-installed kleptocracy conservatives voted in to replace him. President Obama’s post-presidency will be no different than his presidency. It will be a masterclass in dignity, intelligence and grace. And as Trump proceeds to ruin the country, people will clamor for his steady hand again — the hand some took for granted.
Obama’s legacy is protected. Even if his signature achievements are upended, his greatness will remain. But don’t think the Republicans, petty little children they are, won’t do everything in their power to change that.
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