Political Animal


June 11, 2012 10:22 AM Breaking the Fever

By Ed Kilgore

Ryan Lizza seems to have decided to publish the first big thumb-sucker on Barack Obama’s hypothetical second term, and there’s some interesting (if questionably relevant) material about previous presidential second acts. But for the moment, what I found striking is Obama’s frequent references to the possibility that a 2012 defeat might change the Republican Party from its current direction of hyper-polarization, 1964-style reactionary messianism, and paranoia. The term he uses with Lizza (as elsewhere) is that “the fever may break.”

While the clinical term is entirely appropriate, I do wonder if Obama really believes it. After all, the current “fever” was the direct product of two consecutive landslide Republican defeats in 2006 and 2008. It was, to put it mildly, counter-intuitive for the entire GOP to conclude that its defeats were the result of its movement-conservative 43d president “betraying his conservative principles,’ particularly since his own second-term plunge in popularity closely followed two Bush administration initiatives—the stubborn pursuit of the Iraq War, and his aborted Social Security privatization gambit—that conservatives strongly supported, and another incident (W.’s languid reaction to Katrina) that reflected their “individual responsibility” attitude towards Americans-particularly poor and minority Americans—in misfortune.

So how would Republicans react to, say, a narrow Obama win? Blame it on the RINO Romney? Discover another “voter fraud”-driven “stolen election?” Conclude their congressional leaders were too friendly to the secular-socialist president? The very fact that we can legitimately ask these questions is a pretty good indication it’s not so clear the fever would in fact break.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Kris on June 11, 2012 10:31 AM:

    I think it's worth asking if another GOP loss in 2010 would have changed anything. Having won back the House, and made significant gains in the Senate and at State-levels, the narrative that Republicans "Just needed to get back to their Conservative roots" is at least internally plausible. I don't think the same could have been said had they faced significant losses for 3 consecutive election cycles.

  • Napoleon on June 11, 2012 10:33 AM:

    There is 0% chance that the fever will break if Obama wins. At a minimum that will not occure untill 2016 and then only if the Republicans loose yet again in an election that is less then a cliffhanger.

  • stevio on June 11, 2012 10:35 AM:

    Fever? More like a bad acid trip...

  • c u n d gulag on June 11, 2012 10:43 AM:

    The fever won't break - it'll get hotter!

    If they lose in 2012, it'll be because the Conservatives they had running weren't "Conservative enough."

    They'll be "Conservative enough" when they win, and start eliminating all those who don't agree with them.

    Then, if they don't eliminate EVERYONE, they still won't be "Conservative enough," until they find those who will.

    And that's the definition of "Conservative enough" - ruthless elimination of all of the competition.

    And yes, it CAN happen here.

  • Basilisc on June 11, 2012 10:44 AM:

    If Republicans lose the presidency but keep at least one house of Congress, things are likely to go on as before. In lawmaking terms, we'll have maybe one year of angry gridlock, then three years of quiet gridlock as attention turns to 2016. And the dynamic of ultra-right-wing "establishment" Rebublicans getting pushed aside by ultra-ultra-right-wing crazies won't change, because, with 2016 looming, extremism will once again be the easiest way to attract money, attention and enthusiasm.

    The only thing that will break the fever will be massive GOP losses across multiple levels of government. Even then, it will have to be clear that they lost because of extremism. Obama (& the rest of the Dems) will have to make "conservatism" a bad word in and of itself, just as "liberalism" suddenly became toxic in the 1980s. Unfortunately I don't see much sign that they're doing this yet.

  • Stetson Kennedy on June 11, 2012 10:46 AM:

    I agree with Ed on this one. While in the past, the GOP may have reacted by eschewing the radicals in its party (think of Goldwater in '64), this is the Foxification of the Republican party, and they would more likely tack even harder to the right.

    My guess is that Obama not only understands this, but is subtly encouraging it. He has to know anything he says is immediately anathema to the right. He knows that his mere suggestion that heavy GOP losses could lead to more moderation will ensure that the crazies get even crazier.

  • Mimikatz on June 11, 2012 10:53 AM:

    No way the crazy will abate if Obama is reelected, because his very presence in the WH is a large part (along with economic insecurity) of what is fueling it.

    Losing to a white guy in 2016 might do it, but there is a lot more crazy to come before they are a small enough part of the GOP to compel a change.

  • mb on June 11, 2012 10:55 AM:

    I continue to marvel (and worry) that Obama, having lived through the last 4 years of trying to deal with the perfidy of conservatives (both Rep and Dem,) continues to hold onto a belief that need and rationality will prevail. Especially given that the past 4 years followed on the heels of the catastrophic rein of W. which, itself, came after 8 years of conservative hysteria about the Clintons.

    When will Obama, and the Dems, finally absorb the, imho, pretty clear lessons of the past 20 years? I'm not optimistic that it will be soon.

  • jheartney on June 11, 2012 11:19 AM:

    It's not a fever, it's terminal cancer. The GOP is unsalvageable. Either the party dies, or, if they take power, the country does.

    Today's extreme right version of the Republican party is a vehicle of theocratic authoritarianism. In the name of freedom, God and patriotism, they'll happily turn the U.S. into a plutocratic dictatorial theocracy. They want it so badly they can taste it.

  • howard on June 11, 2012 11:33 AM:

    poll after poll indicates that republican voters do not believe in compromise and think their politicians have made too many deals.

    the gop congressional delegation is simply responding to its voters, and the idea that those voters are going to wake up the day after the election and return to sanity is, in fact, the "fever" at work here.

  • Roddy McCorley on June 11, 2012 11:38 AM:

    Gang, we need to stop thinking about the Republicans as if they were still a political party. They aren't, and have not been for quite some time. They have expressed blatant contempt for the laws and institutions of this country. They are overtly hostile to the welfare of the majority of the citizens of this country. They are indifferent to the physical security of this country. They are proudly ignorant of the most fundamental workings of this country.

    Call them what you like. My preference is "a pathology." I also like "vandals." But they are not a political party. We have to stop thinking that at some point they are going to act like one. That time has passed.

    The most charitable thing we can call them is misdirection for the people who are looting the country. In which case, it's even more short-sighted to think that they're likely to come to their senses.

  • menthol on June 11, 2012 11:39 AM:

    Jon Chait is on the record as having predicted that the GOP will impeach Obama at some point during his presidency. If Obama wins again, I don't think it's all far-fetched that this could happen.

  • TCinLA on June 11, 2012 11:56 AM:

    Sadly, this is another case of Obama bullshit, which I am now pretty used to since 2009. The man never misses an opportunity to make me regret not supporting Hillary Clinton, who at least knew who the damn enemy is.

    BTW Ed, I would just like to congratulate you for every one of the posts you did yesterday. Wow, talk about unchaining the inner bulldog! And today's not bad either.

  • Kathryn on June 11, 2012 11:57 AM:

    I sure hope Pres. Obama doesn't believe that and is trying to torment them into greater insanity, though I don't really think that's a great idea myself. It's already red hot nuts in right wing world, getting downright frightening IMO.

    I was speaking to a cousin of mine who is in her seventies, still goes to Mass and lives in a semi rural retirements community in Maryland. She is sane however and said that she is surrounded by right wing old coots and an increasingly radical Catholic church getting parishioners to sign some kind of statement or other regarding trumped up church fight about birth control coverage. She won't sign it, but it's beginning to feel very 1930's Germany to me.

  • TCinLA on June 11, 2012 12:04 PM:

    While in the past, the GOP may have reacted by eschewing the radicals in its party (think of Goldwater in '64),

    I think you need to re-read your political history. I would refer you to Rick Pearlstein's "Nixonland" most particularly. The Goldwater people got Goldwater nominated by taking over the local levels of the GOP, the level-pullers. Those people didn't go away. When Nixon started running again for president in 1966, he made very certain all those people understood that he had been one of the few "mainstream Republicans" who had been enthusiastic in his support of Goldwater in 1964. The message was subtle but clear: put me in office and I will make you happy as I pursue the policies you want. And he largely did. The same is true for how Reagan became popular.

    The Republican Party never disavowed Goldwater. They merely made themselves less obvious, until over the past 30 years they decided to start peeling the mask off.

    There's a reason why 50 years ago my great-grand-uncle who had spent the previous 50 years to that as an active Democrat who worked for Harry Truman, told me that "the only 'good Republicans' are pushing up daisies." Go read Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Time" and see how the Republicans were acting then. They have always been this way. The "reasonable Republicans" have always been the exception.

  • jjm on June 11, 2012 12:12 PM:

    If they lose big time, the GOP may very well become even more radicalized and more openly fascist: supporting the rich against the 'masses', disabling governance at all levels, being loud and nasty and violent.

    And they would then be something like Le Pen's movement in France, often threatening to gain power but not quite being able to, as people would see their true essence.

    But, as Mike Huckabee noted, if it weren't for Fox News, the American people would think that Obama is doing a good job as president.

    So as long as we have a fascist news outlet that gets bundled for 'free' with cable TV (other news cable stations do not) then the GOP will continue to grab headlines for their odious behaviors.

  • Rick B on June 11, 2012 12:21 PM:

    If Obama seriously believes that a defeat in 2012 will lead the Republicans to a breaking of the fever then Obama was in the Senate too long. He really believes that his opponents are sane.

    The conservative Republicans are NOT sane. They have a repeated pattern of dealing with the failure of their initiatives by blaming someone else for causing the failure of their(perfect) prescriptions or choosing a scapegoat from their own ranks and blaming him. Then they redouble their efforts to accomplish the program already demonstrated to be idiocy.

    The core of this pattern is the refusal to realistically evaluate the causes of their failures. Mere defeat does not alter this refusal, it simply makes it more painful for them to realistically accept their own failures.

    Obama has led a very sheltered life. He seems to think that social success is proof of sanity. It's not.

  • Peter C on June 11, 2012 12:25 PM:

    I see no indications that the Republicans will return to sanity and I think it is a mistake to hope that they will. The Whig party died. The Tory party died. Those who only feel comfortable with a majority party and a 'loyal opposition' can rest assured that with the death of the Republican party, another party will pop up.

    But the current Republicans have discarded the 'majority/loyal opposition' paradigm; they see us as traitorous, not as a loyal opposition. They've made this a death match. We can't play for a tie; that side winds up dead.

  • boatboy_srq on June 11, 2012 12:44 PM:

    Perhaps it's a good thing that the GOP pushes itself over the cliff.

    Consider: how far Right is the US prepared to go? I'm not too sure that there's a lot of room left before enough people realise where that party is headed and start voting for somebody else; how many have already started fleeing the party as it tacked rightward; how many who aren't "true believers" have been and continue to be ousted from positions of authority and prestige within their ranks. Frum is gone now, along with Specter and Bennett, and before long Snowe will be gone as well.

    If the trend continues, the last layer of veneer will be peeled back and the brownshirts will start to show through to the surface. At that point the US will have a choice: defeat them soundly at the ballot box and send them back to the country clubs and Klan gatherings where they belong, or (at last) divide the nation between Blue and Red - but this time with the injunction that secessionists cannot rejoin the Union for some extended period (30 years, perhaps?) to give them extended time with their misconceptions.

    I'm not suggesting that the process would be painless by any means. But if the trend continues - moderates expelled, interest-groups/backers exposed for their hackery, etc - then very soon they'll be down to the 27% and can be handled with a good deal more ease than has been the case.

  • T2 on June 11, 2012 12:51 PM:

    "Blame it on the RINO Romney? " well, hell yeah they'll blame Romney and for good reason. But who else they got? nada.

  • Blackstone on June 11, 2012 3:35 PM:

    "Jon Chait is on the record as having predicted that the GOP will impeach Obama at some point during his presidency. If Obama wins again, I don't think it's all far-fetched that this could happen."
    As likely as that tool from MSNBC saying they'll go after Walker. Obama? With friends like Bill Clinton...

  • dxs on June 11, 2012 3:36 PM:

    Ya Some Fever! Of course it's wrong to a) remind everyone that we are forcing our children to borrow 40 cents of every Federal Dollar, b) talk about the public pension underfunding by 50%, c) actually calculate that taxing the "rich" is a left wing fable designed to avoid real hard decisions, d) remind everyone that BO's current course will ensure that neither Social Security nor Medicare will exist for the young-uns.

  • Rocky on June 11, 2012 3:55 PM:

    such short sightedness...the real question is will liberal blindness end! The continual parisitical relationship between special interests and government are coming to an end. We see evidence of that in the unpopularity of ObamaCare, the backlash against Government Unions in Wisconsin and California, and the reduction in budgets in places like Indiana and New Jersey. 2010 serves as the year when the Makers (hard working Americans) said STOP, enough spending already and put the takers on notice that the free ride is over.

  • Scott Richardson on June 11, 2012 3:57 PM:

    Referencing a Business Week cover story about a year ago, the present value of unfunded US federal liabilities is $221 trillion dollars.

    >> http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/why-the-debt-crisis-is-even-worse-than-you-think-07272011.html

    Considering that the entire US economy is just $15 trillion dollars, I think its safe to assume the US government will never honor its future obligations.

    In particular, I expect entitlement programs and federal employee pensions and benefits to be slashed.

    I guess what I'm really saying is that the enemy of the Democratic party isn't the Republican party; it's reality. This silliness about 'Republican Fever' is merely displaced aggression.

  • dxs on June 11, 2012 4:01 PM:

    I'm thrilled my fellow reality seekers have grabbed some control of these postings -- I had to start the ball rolling because I could not believe the self-deluding rants of the proponents of the "Republican Fever" position

  • Midwest Jim on June 11, 2012 4:06 PM:

    Yet another liberal still spreading lies about Katrina.

    The myth of the "poor Federal response" to Katrina started during the aftermath of the storm. TV crews drove by the New Orleans Convention Center, showing suffering people, dehydrated and in miserable conditions. Did it not occur to anyone watching this that - if the TV crews could drive there, then trucks with relief supplies could also? The control of what was sent into New Orleans in the aftermath of the storm was with the Lousiana State Department of Homeland Security. Federal agencies - such as FEMA - CANNOT over-rule decisions made by state agencies who are in charge of the disaster relief efforts. The Louisiana state government decided early on that they did NOT want relief supplies sent into New Orleans - their goal was to get people to evacuate, and it was felt that sending in supplies would make people less likely to get out.

    The American Red Cross has - since the very days of the Katrina disaster, covered the fact that they had relief supplies ready to go, and were prevented from entering the city to provide these by the state government in Louisiana. There were in fact, truckloads of bottled water and medical supplies that COULD have been delivered to the New Orleans Convention Center in a matter of less than 2 hours at any point - and it was a deliberate decision by state authorities to withhold those supplies.

    The constant effort to "blame Bush" for the Katrina response is simply a "BIG LIE" tactic - one the liberals obviously are still telling.

  • Midwest Jim on June 11, 2012 4:14 PM:

    American Red Cross website covering their response to Katrina - and orders by state officials that they NOT enter the city.


    There are literally dozens of other sources on the internet who will also confirm that the "poor Federal response" to Katrina is a media created hoax. I have client of mine who personally were at the relief supply staging areas, and saw the mountains of relief supplies which COULD have been sent into the city - IF the state government would have allowed it.

  • Rocky on June 11, 2012 4:22 PM:

    such short sightedness...the real question is will liberal blindness end! The continual parisitical relationship between special interests and government are coming to an end. We see evidence of that in the unpopularity of ObamaCare, the backlash against Government Unions in Wisconsin and California, and the reduction in budgets in places like Indiana and New Jersey. 2010 serves as the year when the Makers (hard working Americans) said STOP, enough spending already and put the takers on notice that the free ride is over.

  • EJM on June 11, 2012 5:00 PM:

    It is really so curious to read the 'progressive' blogs.
    Alice in Wonderland. Down the rabbit hole we go.

    Having spent nearly 8 solid years attacking and obstructing George W. Bush as a 'war criminal' 'torturer' 'trampling on the Constitution,' single handedly causing hurricanes targeted at blacks, etc. etc. many of us were wondering what would it take to break the democrat's fever.

    Now that Obama kills people with drones without the bother of capturing them let alone reading them Miranda rights, there is no talk of his 'war crimes.' Gitmo remains open and most of the Bush anti-terror policies remain intact, which made the killing (again not capture) of bin-Laden possible--- but where is Cindy Sheehan protesting the inhumanity of blowing his brains out before his wives and family?

    Bush was the 'cowboy' who 'rushed us to war' after a year of deliberations, Congressional hearings and a resolution, and numerous UN resolutions. But Obama supports the overthrow of Libya's Obama lectures and bullies the Supreme Court, paying no attention to the unconstitutionality of his 'health care' travesty, and that's just fine with liberals. Black unemployment is up, a whole generation of young people is having their hopes and dreams crushed, while Obama presses relentlessly for more of the same. Bush was bad for running up our debt by trillions in 8 years, but Obama is blameless for beating Bush's record in only 3 years.

    Yet the mindless drones of the left think it's the Tea Party's horrible, bad, evil insistence on constitutional limited government living within its means that is source of all of the country's problems.

    When will their fever break?

    Not counting on ever. Simply will have to be firmly and decisively defeated in order to return to prosperity and sanity.

    On Wisconsin.

  • Lee on June 11, 2012 5:40 PM:

    I don't think he believes it, or at least not strongly. He's saying it to allay concerns that re-electing him will just mean more gridlock.

  • Doug on June 11, 2012 8:25 PM:

    The Republican Party is, regardless of the mindless trolls parrotting above, on it's last legs. It's a pity, too, because it once had something to offer this country.
    Not anymore. Not when Republicans have to LIE to get elected. Not when Republicans LIE to avoid responsibility for their actions.
    Republicans DON'T represent "MAKERS"(sic), they represent takers, plain and simple. Republicans DON'T represent working people, as shown by what passes for economic or social "policies" in the GOP.
    A vast majority of Blacks don't support Republican policies. A very large majority of women don't support Republican policies. A large majority of young people don't support Republican policies. A large majority of Latinos don't support Republican policies. The vast majority of the LGBT community doesn't support Republicans. A large majority of union members don't support Republican policies (don't be mislead by Wisconsin).
    Republicans DON'T represent anyone but a shrinking group of people who believe they, for whatever reason, are entitled to run this country. Basically, old white males and/or old white RICH males. With, of course,the occasional disgruntled younger white male who, seemingly, feels that HIS skin color and/or gender should provide him with some sort of advantage. Sorry, Rocky et al, but the 1950s are long gone. Live with it.
    As the Social Darwinists use to say "Adapt or die (off)"...

  • Werewolf on June 11, 2012 8:43 PM:

    I guess the wingnut bat-signal went up, telling the trolls to jump on this thread....

  • DualNature on June 11, 2012 11:01 PM:

    I live in Texas. The state GOP here has a long history of insanity but it's been ratched-up recently and has been on full display the past few weeks.

    David Dewhurst, the long-time establishment Lt Guvnah, was forced into a runoff by Tea Partier Ted Cruz in the GOP primary a couple of weeks ago. People, Dewhurst is an ultra-conservative and he isn't conservative enough for a significant portion of the GOP? Seriously?

    Furthermore, the GOP had its annual state confab last weekend and Rick Perry--Rick Perry!--was BOOED when he voiced his support for Dewhurst.

    Wow. Dewhurst is practically a RINO and Perry gets booed at his own party's big to-do.

    The fever swamp's getting mighty steamy.