In a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday, President Obama denied any responsibility for the public sentiment that gave rise to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. After telling reporters that he was willing to shoulder a certain amount of blame for failing to bridge the divide between himself and the public, he said that was as far as he was willing to go.
“What I’m not going to do is validate some notion that the Republican crackup that’s been taking place is a consequence of actions that I’ve taken,” Obama said. “I think it is very important for them to reflect on what it is about the politics that they’ve engaged in that allows the circus we’ve been seeing transpire.”
He then gave what has to go down as the most laughable quote of the year. “Ultimately, I want an effective Republican Party,” he said. “I think this country has to have responsible parties that can govern and that are prepared to lead and govern whether they’re in the minority or the majority, whether they occupy the White House or they do not.”
An effective Republican Party – which, by the way, Obama has never encountered – is the last thing he wants to see. Republicans have played the role of the submissive for seven long years, scared to death that the media’s portrayal of them as obstructionists will gain traction and cost them future elections. Obama is probably right when he says he’s not directly responsible for Trump’s popularity; rather, it is the GOP’s utter inability to challenge him on virtually any issue that laid the groundwork for this revolt.
But according to Obama – and don’t think that this notion isn’t gaining acceptance within the Republican Party – it was conservative propaganda that gave space to a Trump candidacy. “Objectively,” he said, “it’s fair to say that the Republican political elites and many of the information outlets, social media, news outlets, talk radio, television stations have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years a notion that everything I do is to be opposed, that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal, that maximalist, absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous, that there is a them out there and an us, and them are the folks who are causing whatever problems you’re experiencing.”
Now here’s where Republicans had better pay attention. Obama concluded his rant with the tagline that we’ve heard from him, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, and it’s the thing that GOP leaders always seem to miss.
Obama said that Trump’s views were not significantly different from the rest of the Republican presidential candidates. “Mr. Trump,” he said, “might just be more provocative in terms of how he says it.”
That comment right there is why it makes so little sense for the Republican establishment to oppose Trump the way they have. They are out there trying to convince people that Trump is this terrible guy who doesn’t represent the party’s values, seemingly blind to the fact that Democrats are painting every one of them with the same brush. Whether it’s through incompetence or secret collusion, they have spent the last eight months doing the outright bidding of the Democratic Party.