Josh Marshall: Democrats’ Obamacare Success Has Forced GOP Into ‘Almost Complete Embrace of the Politics of Scandal’

It’s been common for a few years to observe that Democrats and Republicans barely talk with each other anymore, but if you believe Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall, these days the two parties aren’t even truly fighting with each other.

In a Tuesday blog post, Marshall claimed that each party now is “operating in [its] own political universe.” In one universe, President Obama ignores obstructionist GOPers and uses his executive powers to accomplish what he can; in the other, Republicans and their media allies are less concerned with thwarting Obama than with revving up their base, largely by flogging Benghazi and other scandals.

Marshall suggests the key to this state of affairs is the widespread recent realization that Obamacare “won't fail and isn't going anywhere,” which has left the Obamacare-hating GOP “living in a bell jar inhaling the fumes of its own conspiratorial fantasies.”

From Marshall’s post (emphasis added):

It may sound funny to describe our current political moment as a truce...

But if you look closely, a truce it is.

On the one hand, President Obama has completely given up on legislating, which is really the only logical course available to him. He's now pursuing a reasonably ambitious agenda using a mix of executive orders and other executive prerogatives…

The Republican response has been less to fight these moves as to incorporate them into their anti-Obama narrative as (light version) norm-breaking imperial president or (strong version) emerging Obama tyranny. Not that they won't fight them; they will. But the emphasis seems more on pocketing them as tools for motivating partisans than actually stymieing executive action…

Meanwhile, on the Republican side there's an almost complete embrace of the politics of scandal. First there's Benghazi (first, last and always you might say), then the repeat investigations of Benghazi and now the capture of the purported Benghazi mastermind is, we're told, in fact an effort to distract from ... Benghazi or perhaps Hillary's book tour. (On the B-side of this record, there's the zombie IRS scandal, the 'Taliban 5' scandal, Bergdahl and a bunch of other mini scandals you may not even be aware of if you're not inside the GOP-Fox hive mind.) The 90s era GOP scandal machine was no less loopy in its way. There's a reasonable argument that it was much worse.

What seems different is the self-contained nature of the dialog. The Benghazi investigation is so parodic, self-reinforcing and devoid of new evidence, I don't think most Democrats and I half suspect even the White House much cares when the latest new conspiracy theory emerges. This isn't just exhaustion. It's also a recognition that these 'scandals' seem entirely contained within the 'Fox News' ecosystem. Or what we might call, to use the language of territorial maximalism, Greater Fox News - where you tie-in the Washington Beacon, Breitbart, the Daily Caller and various other territorial dependencies and potential irredentist holdings…

…I see Obama pushing necessary national priorities by the only means available to him and the GOP living in a bell jar inhaling the fumes of its own conspiratorial fantasies. But I think the pattern holds even if you separate out any critical analysis or evaluation of what each side is doing. In fact, even if you're a partisan Republican, I think it's basically the same. The white and black hats change. But the basic plot line remains. You have two governing and narrative tracks that are running in parallel to each other but increasingly operating in two different worlds.

In a way we've been living in this political world since Republicans took over the House in 2011. But I think there's a change and its name is Obamacare. 


…It was a live issue whether the Supreme Court would allow the program to live until mid-2012 and an open political question until the November 2012 election. Then, after the Ted Cruz/Obamacare government shutdown, improbably and unexpectedly, it became [a] massive issue overnight with the calamitous launch of healthcare.gov.

Whether or not it was ever a realistic concern (or hope) that the program might break down amidst the rollout wreckage, it certainly seemed like a very live issue…

But that seems pretty much done now. A realistic view suggests that is because it's now clear the program won't fail and isn't going anywhere. The legislation was stronger than the website. There's even growing evidence it's picking up steam

However you choose to describe it, both sides of the partisan divide are operating in their own political universe, on their own political turfs. And the most striking thing is that both seem content to keep it that way.

 

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters