President Barack Obama stands accused by conservatives of waging class warfare, seeking to galvanize his base and lure middle-class voters by pitting the rich against everyone else.
But Obama’s reelection strategy is about more than the haves and have-nots. It appears he is seeking to stir up full-blown cultural warfare against a large and diverse segment of society known as Republicans.
Having failed to lower the unemployment rate to a politically tolerable level, Obama cannot run as most presidential candidates do — on the economy. So he and his advisers seem to have decided instead to mount a deeply polarizing campaign based on “values” — suggesting his vision for America is correct even if the economy is not right yet.
But in waging this battle, Obama is saying nasty and dangerous things. He is promoting his own principles — not just by touting their goodness, but by suggesting that Republicans hold to an offensive, even un-American, philosophy.
By painting his opposition as not just wrong but evil, Obama risks dividing the nation in a profound and unnecessary way.
Obama previewed the strategy last April, when he said that the budget produced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and eventually passed by the House was “not a vision of the America I know.”
In the past several weeks, Obama’s pronouncements on what is American and what is not — and his accusations of bad faith by his opponents — have increased in frequency and intensity.
In September, Obama used reactions by a handful of audience members at GOP debates to indict the entire party.
“Some of you here may be folks who actually used to be Republican,” Obama said during a California fundraiser, “but are puzzled by what’s happened to that party. You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay. That’s not reflective of who we are.”
Allegations that Republicans want sick people to die and hate homosexuals are caricatures you might expect of an extreme House member or a raving partisan running for local office. That a president would say — or even believe — such things is deeply disturbing.
The few in the debate audience who actually reacted in this way may, in fact, have been responding to the new health care law and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” — not seeking the death of people who can’t afford health care insurance or hating homosexuals.
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