And rather than engage in soul-searching about the more destructive policies of the Bush administration - the war in Iraq, the tax cuts, the negative results of outsourcing and so-called free trade - the GOP leadership decided the only necessary policy was to be the anti-Obama party. WIth that as the sole plank in their platform - the rest could be filled in later - Republicans rushed out to Astroturf the ostensibly independent Tea Party, which, as we have seen, was in reality the activist core of the Republican base. It was easy enough to take all the inchoate venom that had built up over the previous decade thanks to 9/11, the culture wars, and the economic collapse of 2008 and focus it against Obama. Anti-Obamaism became the signature Republican political philosophy of the second decade of the century. The Tea Party’s supposedly spontaneous origin in 2009 was in reality anything but accidental. The previous twenty years of well-funded networking, assisted by propaganda bullhorns like Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and all the rest, had laid the groundwork for the emergence of an angry and rigidly inflexible new movement.
The crowning irony is that the preposterous attacks against Obama actually did the president a favor by masking his true political makeup: that of a corporate centrist who basically followed (with minor variations) the main policy line of his predecessor. After the greatest economic collapse in eighty years, a collapse predominately (although not exclusively) caused by the irresponsibility of corporate finance, the net result was a parallel shift by both established parties to the right: the Democrats to a vaguely center-right corporate-friendly status quo party that preserves vestiges of the social safety net for appearance’s sake, and the Republicans to a fend-for-yourself leader-follower cult of conspiracies and Armageddons, of endless enemies and religious crusades.