Enough With the 'War' Rhetoric

According to the GOP, Obama is waging a war on everything.

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“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win,” said Chinese general Sun Tzu in his famous "The Art of War." According to General Tzu’s insight, conservatives are turning themselves into “defeated warriors.”

Prior to Barack Obama’s election as president in 2008, the United States was engaged in two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq. Their purpose was to seek-out and destroy enemies of the United States. But since Obama’s election, and re-election in 2012, conservative media and politicians have chosen the strategy of defining every issue as a war rather than engaging with their political opposition.

During Obama’s first term, conservatives wrongly believed that by accusing the president of creating constant wars, they would convince voters not to re-elect him. In 2010, for instance, Townhall, a conservative opinion website, published an article “Obama’s Race War.” It said, “The next race war will come not from racist whites, but from racist blacks and Hispanics who feel empowered to act on their racism by an administration that excuses all minority misbehavior.”

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

As the election came closer, conservatives amped-up their war rhetoric. In May of 2012, a caller told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that Limbaugh was losing the anti-gay marriage debate. Rather than engage with the caller on the merit of the issue, Limbaugh immediately declared war. He went on to accuse Obama of leading a War on Traditional Marriage, a War on Stay-at-Home Working Mothers and a War on the Catholic Church.

In September of 2012, conservative radio host Michael Savage accused Obama of waging a War on the Middle Class. “From the day Obama became President, he has attacked the middle class. It is the middle class he has hammered,” he said. Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, meanwhile, told voters in a commercial, “As president, I’ll end Obama’s War on Religion and I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.”

Perry dropped out of the race shortly thereafter. Obama was re-elected to a second term. Unfortunately, conservatives learned nothing from their loss.

In 2013, Republican Rep. Andy Bar accused President Obama of a War on Coal because the congressman opposed the EPA’s proposed regulations on greenhouse gasses. Then Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "The Obama administration appears to be sending signals that its latest regulation is just the beginning in a new, expanded front in its war on coal.”

[See a collection of political cartoons on the tea party.]

By continuing to employ a war-first strategy, Republicans continue to lose: A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed that only 25 percent of Americans approve of Republicans in Congress; 71 percent disapprove. Democrats and the president score much higher. The poll further reveals a reason for the Republicans’ abysmal numbers: Tea party Republicans are viewed as “contributing to the unpopular partisan conflict in Washington rather than remedying it.”

Perhaps the most damaging of these wars is the Republicans’ War on Republicans. The root of this Republican civil war is the tea party’s core belief that compromise is capitulation, heresy and betrayal. As a result, according to Salon.com, “Seven of the 12 GOP senators up for reelection in 2014 are facing primary opponents, which is a record number of challenges. The far right also plans to target 25 House races, highlighting the deep divisions within the Republican Party.”

This war mentality literally shut down our government at the end of last year and it continues to thwart needed federal action on such important matters as immigration reform, infrastructure investment, education and job creation. The list goes on.  

Not only is this behavior preventing essential federal legislation, it is drowning-out the voice of the majority. For example, eight in 10 Americans were opposed to the government shutdown, yet Republican congressmen disregarded their voices.

In the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., massacre of 20 children and six adults, almost nine out of 10 Americans favored immediate gun control legislation. The federal government enacted nothing. Nothing.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the government shutdown.]

This War on Compromise is a break from American political history. The art of government, in fact, has traditionally been looked upon as the art of compromise.  

In 1964, Democratic Sen. -- and about-to-be Vice President -- Hubert Humphrey publicly expressed his gratitude for Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen’s help in passing the Civil Rights Act, stating on "Meet the Press," “He is a man who thinks of his country before he thinks of his party.” Almost 20 years later, in 1983, Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democrats in Congress forged a compromise that saved Social Security.

As a Democrat, I miss having the Republican Party as a source of ideas for advancing our nation’s interests and solving our nation’s problems. I miss having a creative and positive negotiating partner.

Some Republicans are finally realizing that this war mentality is a losing strategy that could cost them in the 2014 elections, and prevent them from winning the White House in 2016 and beyond. A call for change recently came from an unlikely source: Glenn Beck.

Beck and Fox News parted ways in 2011. The prevailing theory for this divorce is that Beck’s opinions were too extreme, even for Fox. Astonishingly, Beck recently reappeared on Fox News and said, "I remember it [Fox] as an awful lot of fun and that I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language ... I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart."

Amen.

We must come together. We must end the war rhetoric. Sun Tzu warned, “There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”