There is the familiar theme: “We oppose the president on his latest legislative initiative.” There is the familiar rhetoric: “The president is spineless and needs to take a stand.” Then there is the face of the opposition: the Republicans on Capitol Hill. But not in this instance. Not with Democrats reversing roles with congressional Republicans in staunchly opposing and — perhaps controversially — criticizing Barack Obama.
The explosive expressions of disgust and disunity with the president — from Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-Ohio) obvious anguish over Obama’s tax-compromise framework to the left’s media base calling him spineless — has been evident since Obama announced the proposal last week to maintain the Bush tax cuts in return for extending unemployment benefits.
The groundswell of opposing voices is a familiar phenomenon for the president as he takes on a tough economy in the midst of geopolitical turbulence. However, the character of the heated debate between Obama and his fellow Democrats has taken on a different tone.
Since the onslaught of the Tea Party movement in 2009, descriptions of much of the conservative opposition to Obama — of those critiques that fall short of using imagery of a “boy president” or a “witch doctor” but that rip Obama on perceived policy gaffes and international mistakes — have often ranged from racist to evil. Any arguments that Republicans make about the fundamental differences between themselves and Obama in philosophy and political approach to the economy, the military and society at large are promptly batted away.
Now, however, many are overlooking the disrespectful dynamic coming from the lot of ungrateful Democrats. Imagine if Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had held a major press conference at the same time Obama was having a press conference announcing a breakthrough, bipartisan effort. And what if Sean Hannity went on television and continually called Obama spineless for brokering a deal that brings a sense of economic stability to a wide range of Americans regardless of socioeconomic background, especially during these hard times?
When similar incidents did occur among Republicans, the response of many Americans was that these conservatives constituted the “party of no,” a coalition of self-serving politicos out to defeat the first black president of the United States because of their racist tendencies.
Is the same true now that the shoe is on the other (i.e., left) foot? The tone of disagreement on the political left, coupled with their recent practice of distancing themselves from Obama on the campaign trail, is problematic. There’s the report that at least one congressional Democrat used the f-word in describing Obama during a closed-door discussion about the tax compromise. Then there’s the way Democrats disregarded the president by ignoring his direction to incorporate Republican ideas (e.g., insurance portability) during the health care debate in 2009. Clearly, there has been a growing separation between the far left and Obama.