Politics & Policy

Divider-in-Chief

To the president, we are all just sects with quarrels to be exploited for political gain.

“The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states . . . ”

– Barack Obama, rising star, Democratic convention, 2004

Poor Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. Once again he’s been pilloried for fumbling a historic Supreme Court case. First shredded for his “train wreck” defense of Obamacare’s individual mandate, he is now blamed for the defenestration in oral argument of Obama’s challenge to the Arizona immigration law. 

The law allows police to check the immigration status of someone stopped for other reasons. Verrilli claimed that constitutes an intrusion on the federal monopoly on immigration enforcement. He was pummeled. Why shouldn’t a state help the federal government enforce the law? “You can see it’s not selling very well,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

But Verrilli never had a chance. This was never a serious legal challenge in the first place. It was confected (and timed) purely for political effect, to highlight immigration as a campaign issue with which to portray Republicans as anti-Hispanic.

Hispanics are just the beginning, however. The entire Obama campaign is a slice-and-dice operation, pandering to one group after another, particularly those that elected Obama in 2008 — blacks, Hispanics, women, young people — and for whom the thrill is now gone. 

#ad#What to do? Try fear. Create division, stir resentment, by whatever means necessary — bogus court challenges, dead-end Senate bills, and a forest of straw men.

Why else would the Justice Department challenge the photo-ID law in Texas? To charge Republicans with seeking to disenfranchise Hispanics and blacks, of course. But in 2008 the Supreme Court upheld a similar law from Indiana. And it wasn’t close: 6–3, the majority including that venerated liberal, John Paul Stevens.

Moreover, photo IDs were recommended by the 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by Jimmy Carter. And you surely can’t get into the attorney general’s building without one. Are Stevens, Carter, and Eric Holder anti-Hispanic and anti-black?

The ethnic bases covered, we proceed to the “war on women.” It sprang to public notice when a 30-year-old student at an elite law school (starting private-sector salary upon graduation: $160,000) was denied the inalienable right to have the rest of the citizenry (as co-insured and/or taxpayers — median household income: $52,000) pay for her contraception.

Despite a temporary setback — Hilary Rosen’s hastily surrendered war on moms — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will resume the battle with a Paycheck Fairness Act that practically encourages frivolous lawsuits and has zero chance of passage.

No matter. Its sole purpose is to keep the war-on-women theme going, while the equally just-for-show Buffett Rule, nicely pitting the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, is a clever bit of class warfare designed to let Democrats play tribune of the middle class.

Ethnicity, race, gender, class. One more box to check: the young. Just four years ago, they swooned in the aisles for Obama. No longer. Not when 54 percent of college graduates under 25 are unemployed or underemployed. 

How to shake them from their lethargy? Fear again. Tell them, as Obama repeatedly does, that Paul Ryan’s budget would cut Pell Grants by $1,000 each, if his domestic cuts were evenly distributed. (They are not evenly distributed, making the charge a fabrication. But a great applause line.)

Then warn that Republicans would double the interest rate on student loans. Well, first, Mitt Romney has said he would keep them right where they are. Second, as the Washington Post points out, this is nothing but a recycled campaign gimmick from 2006, when Democrats advocated (and later passed) a 50 percent rate cut that gratuitously squanders student aid by subsidizing the wealthy as well as the needy.

For Obama, what’s not to like? More beneficiaries, more votes. 

What else to run on with 1.7 percent GDP growth (2011), record long-term joblessness, and record 8 percent-plus unemployment (38 consecutive months, as of this writing)? Slice and dice, group against group.

There is a problem, however. It makes a mockery of Obama’s pose as the great transcender, uniter, healer of divisions. This is the man who sprang from nowhere with that thrilling 2004 convention speech declaring that there is “not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

That was then. Today, we are just sects with quarrels — to be exploited for political advantage. And Obama is just the man to fulfill Al Gore’s famous mistranslation of our national motto: Out of one, many. 

Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2012 the Washington Post Writers Group.

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