Every one of these issues fractures Republicans. The speech, devoid as it was of olive branches, played into the emerging Republican consensus that Obama is trying to divide and destroy the GOP.
They are right about the division part, though likely mistaken when they impute a motive to destroy. As in, he is proposing comprehensive gun control and immigration reform – instead of teeny slices of those packages – in order to set GOP factions against each other and blow up the party. New York Times columnist David Brooks recently made that argument, yearning for the “learn to crawl” piecemeal approach but anticipating that Obama would choose “kill the wounded” instead.
By that logic, coming from Brooks and others, you could assume a president was aiming to destroy the opposition party every time he or she did anything that attracted some opposition votes but not all of them. Bush-era initiatives that divided Democrats would include tax cuts, the Iraq war, and his Medicare prescription-drug program. Did he propose invading Iraq because it would pit Democrat against Democrat?
Please. It’s far more likely that Bush believed in those causes and peeled off as many Democrats as he could in order to win passage or, if he had enough votes, to earn a bit of bipartisanship and justification for his “uniter, not divider” campaign slogan.