Pete Seat: Time for GOP to move beyond Obama
Thursday, May 07, 2015 10:19 AM
INDIANAPOLIS – Our nation’s problems are bigger than Barack Obama. Yet, by the logic espoused by the most ardent opponents of the president and his agenda, he is the only thing that stands in the way of results. We only need to sit it out for two more years before rainbows and unicorns dance in the streets.
But, that won’t happen. To bring about real action, Republicans, and our nation, have to move on from Obama before Obama moves on to his post-presidential life. Republicans need to realize that Obama won’t be here forever. He’s the favorite chew toy of many, but I’m not certain some are prepared for a world without him, a world where they have to actually do stuff rather than just complain all the time.
That becomes complicated, though, when the president insists on signing executive orders that bypass the check and balance of the legislative branch. By playing a constitutionally questionable hand on the issue of immigration, Obama shrewdly forced Republicans to keep their attention focused squarely on him. He knows they’re obsessed. He knows he can withstand a few more blows to his approval rating. But they have to be smarter than that.
Like Seinfeld suggested a Band-Aid should be removed, “one motion, right off,” so, too, should Republicans give up their Obama obsession. In an ironic twist of political fate, they should act more like the Democrats who have put more effort into making a clean break from Obama than have Republicans.
For the past several years, Democrats have distanced themselves from their own president whenever it suited their personal political destiny. Every so often an issue causes Democrats to vocalize their displeasure with Obama, and those tend to get highlighted closer to election time.
Trotting ever closer to the first votes of 2016, Democrats instead spend their time fighting over who is more ready for Hillary Clinton, much like desperate parents fought over the last Tickle Me Elmo on the shelf many Christmases ago. Who’s fighting over who supports Obama the most? No one, as far as I can tell.
Flip to the Republican side, and there is a persistent battle over who dislikes Obama the most. Why? He’s been good for business. I once wrote about the phenomenon I called “Obamanalia,” the paraphernalia with his likeness that sold like hotcakes in late 2008 and early 2009. Those days are long gone, yet from time to time I will spot someone with an Obama shirt, probably hoping to rekindle the romance. Or more likely they just got to the bottom of the drawer and had yet to do their laundry.
Those disliking Obama’s politics have made a Joe Biden-like killing on bashing the president. What the heck are they going to do when Obama is living it up in Hawaii and downing cocktails with donors in Chicago come Jan. 21, 2017?
Here’s a novel idea: Moving on from Obama could actually be good for business. It could lead to galvanizing Republicans and independents to be for something rather than always against something or, in this case, someone.
Paul Ryan has echoed this point, as have many of his fellow Republicans, most notably those in the intellectual reform movement. But to do that, Republicans need to leave Obama behind. He is not only the biggest obstacle to seeing Republican legislative priorities get signed into law, he’s also the biggest obstacle in offering Americans a bold and comprehensive plan for the future. If they can’t see past him, how can they cast a vision for the future?
Pete Seat is senior project manager at the Indianapolis-based Hathaway Strategies. He was previously a spokesman for President George W. Bush, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats and the Indiana Republican Party. He joins Howey Politics Indiana as a regular columnist.