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History Games: The Sequester as Punishment





I don’t know if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or House Speaker John Boehner read much history.

But this old history teacher wonders if the GOP’s stubborn refusal to seriously negotiate with the Democrats over the sequester cuts is more cribbing from Andy Jackson’s 1824 political playbook.

That year, Old Hickory lost the presidency to John Quincy Adams. Immediately, Jackson set out to make Adams a one-termer.

Jackson sent the word to pro-Jackson members of Congress: If Adams is for it, oppose it. If he’s against it, support it.

Jackson unseated Adams in 1828.

No sooner was Barack Obama elected president in 2008 than McConnell said the GOP’s top political priority was beating him in 2012. “Amens” rose from Boehner and the rest of the party. GOP lawmakers got their marching orders: If Obama’s for it, we’re not, and vice versa.

Obstructionism worked for Jackson. But it didn’t for McConnell last November.

No matter, the McConnell doctrine is still GOP law.

Polls show the Republicans are about as popular as a wet dog at a wedding in most parts of the country. Even so, count me not among lefties who think the sequester snafu is the last nail in the GOP coffin.

Oh, it might be, but it’s far from a sure thing.

It all depends on which party John and Jane Q. Public end up faulting for the pain that’s coming. Lefty conventional wisdom holds it will the Republicans, hands down.

I wouldn’t bet the farm on that, especially if the sequester tanks the economy. History teaches that when hard times hit or won’t go away, the voters almost always take it out on the president and his party.

So if the economy falls, the Republicans might just rise.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope the body politic will see Republican obstructionism for the scorched earth politics it is. The GOP is still determined to wreck the Obama presidency, even if it means wrecking the recovery.

I like a graphic that’s making the rounds on the Internet. It shows a bloody axe, House Majority leader Eric Cantor, Rep. Paul Ryan and Boehner. “THE SEQUESTER!” starts the caption next to the axe. “BROUGHT TO YOU BY THESE GUYS” it continues next to an arrow pointing at Cantor, Ryan and Boehner. “TO PUNISH YOU FOR VOTING FOR THIS GUY.” it concludes with an arrow pointing at Obama.

Here’s hoping most Americans conclude that the cartoon is on the money. If they do and put the blame for the sequester mess where it belongs — on the quartet of McConnell, Boehner, Ryan, Cantor and their tea party-tilting Republican pals — I’ll happily dine on crow with a big slice of humble pie for dessert.

(Berry Craig is recording secretary for the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council and a history professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College. His post first appeared on LA Progressive and is republished with permission.)

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