Monday, February 27, 2012

The Obama-Santorum conspiracy


Convinced that President Obama's contraception battle with the Catholic Church is not a "short-term tactical blunder" but yet another example of the president's "strategically shrewd" long game, conservative-turned-Dem-loving-ratiocinator Andrew Sullivan this week dabbled in a potentially promising career as a conspiracy theorist with a column at The Daily Beast that shocked Washington insiders and rubes, Democrats and Republicans, Obamabots and Birthers alike:

The more Machiavellian observer might even suspect this is actually an improved bait and switch by Obama to more firmly identify the religious right with opposition to contraception, its weakest issue by far, and to shore up support among independent women and his more liberal base... And if this was a trap, the religious right walked right into it.

Not only did the right-wing establishment walk right into it, their constituents turned out en masse to vote on it, handing three presidential primary victories to the rigidly conservative and proudly orthodox Catholic Rick Santorum.

Is it therefore impossible to assume that President Obama expected that such a hot-button issue would effect turnout among conservatives, and therefore timed the contraception ruling in order to boost Santorum's odds of besting the only candidate with even a remote chance of beating Obama in November, presumed nominee Mitt Romney?

That's a rhetorical question, of course.

Obviously, the president is going to capitalize on whatever means are available to him in his race for re-election.

It doesn't take a political genius to see that this contraception fight was a win-win-win for Obama. It riled his own base, pissed off the conservative wing of the Republican Party, and "reinforce[d] Obama's reputation as a man willing to compromise, one of his core strengths among independent voters."

As Sullivan observes, riling the "righteous" conservatives is especially important, if only because their extreme views on religious issues have done nothing to improve their popularity among the more moderate masses.

If the Catholic bishops and the religious right eventually reject the proposed Obama compromise, they will be digging themselves even deeper into a hole that is quickly losing traction. Citing the civil union-versus-marriage debate and the religious right's ongoing pursuit to criminalize abortion, Sullivan writes that, "[t]ime after time, they have rejected compromises on social issues because of fundamentalist rigidity, not Christian engagement with a changing world." And as the polling shows, they're losing ground on each of these aforementioned issues.

As this and other social issues come to the fore in an election pundits claim will be "focused almost entirely on jobs," the clear beneficiary is Santorum.

Given the Republican Party's lukewarm enthusiasm for Romney, Santorum's hard-line stances on abortion, gay marriage, and other hot-button issues very well may propel him toward the nomination.

Anything Obama can do to help that potentiality become a reality is just good politics (especially when the majority of Americans support the specific policies being used to divide Republicans, as they do in the case of contraception).


Such political gamesmanship may not land Santorum the nomination, but fracturing Republican voters between the unelectable true-blood conservative and the electable but unlikeable "milquetoast Massachusetts moderate" plays well for the incumbent no matter how you slice it.

In a not-so-subtle hint to the Santorum campaign on what ought to be the focus of their attacks in the coming months, Sullivan states that the contraception issue "could not be more tailor-made to benefit" Santorum.

It could finally unite the Christian fundamentalist right behind him -- especially since Romneycare contained exactly the same provisions on contraception that Obamacare did before last week's compromise was announced. That's right: Romneycare can now accurately be portrayed as falling to the left of Obamacare on the contraception issue.

"[This] could be the issue that wins him the nomination," Sullivan says.

Or it could not be. Santorum could fall short of winning the nomination and succeed only in postponing Romney's expected victory, bleeding the eventual nominee's campaign coffers, dividing the Republican Party along social lines, and riling socially liberal and moderate Americans behind the incumbent's less dogmatic, more pragmatic compromise.

Win or lose, Santorum's surge into the #1 slot in the GOP primary race may prove nothing more than what is already obvious: that Barack Obama is more than a "chess master." He's one BAD motherfucker!

(Also published at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.)

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