Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Fear of a Black President?

By Brad DeLong

A few thoughts provoked by reading Mann and Ornstein this morning…

Barack Obama has, after all, been pursuing Bill Clinton's gun-control policy, Ronald Reagan's foreign policy, John McCain's climate policy, Mitt Romney's health-care policy, George W. Bush's immigration policy, the bipartisan Squam Lake Group’s financial-regulatory policy, Bill Clinton's tax policy, George H.W. Bush's spending policy, South Carolina Republican Ben Bernanke's monetary policy, and Wyoming Republican Alan Simpson's fiscal policy.

Many of these are much too far to the ideological right for technocratic justification. None of them are much too far to the left…

And do the Boehners and the McConnells and the Romneys and the McCains and the Bushes stand up on our hind legs and say to the base: "Wait a minute! These are our policies!"?

No -- with the exception of George W. Bush on immigration policy, who did so, and thus showed more cojones than the entire rest of today's Republican Party put together. More than Mitt Romney, especially, whose former aides in Massachusetts have now fanned out all across the country implementing nationwide his health-care reform plan -- and doing so without his lifting a finger to help.

There are two theories about what is going on. One is that McConnell and Boehner like their jobs, and believe that Gingrich and Dole made a fatal mistake after the 1995 debacle -- that they tried to govern with a Democratic President rather than continuing to throw raw meat to the base, and they are not going to make Gingrich's and Dole's mistake. In this case, McConnell and Boehner are trying to be clever in making the base their tool.

The other is that the Republican base is petrified that, now that a Black Man runs the country, he is going to do to them what they did to African-Americans for four centuries, and so they desperately need their politicians to block everything he proposes to try to keep karma from paying them a visit. In this case, McConnell and Boehner are too weak to remember why they wanted high federal office in the first place.

I don't know which theory is more correct, or how, really, to decide between them...

Editor's note:  Read a transcript here of a recent appearance by Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein at UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies, posted by Brad DeLong.