A new theme is emerging for the November elections, a repeat from the Congressional elections of 1775, had there been some. A king — President Obama — is trying to tell us what to do, and we — Republican patriots — won't allow it. This was predictable.
Let us begin by watching this advertisement from Texas candidate for lieutenant governor Todd Staples.
This is a pretty zeitgeisty ad (which we saw via Dave Weigel). Gay marriage, guns, the whole thing. But it's predicated on this idea that Obama is a king, which, Staples emphatically informs the president, he is not. "Texans bow to no one," Staples says, reminding people that Obama has sort-of-bowed to people in the past, including kings. Oh, and then Staples says he'll "fight Obama's liberal agenda," illustrated by Staples aiming a shotgun at something (a photo of a king??) in a gun store. The ad ends: "So Mr. President, if you still want to mess with Texas: Come and take it." Will Obama mess with Texas by coming to take Texas? We shall see!
Most of this stuff Staples' ad team had ready to go months ago. But this new frame of the imperial Obama ties it all together, however awkwardly. It's the natural end point of two longstanding conservative arguments: Obama is a snob who thinks he's better than everyone, and conservatives are the real patriots, standing up for the Constitution the way the Founding Fathers stood up to Britain. Make Obama into King George III, and voila.
We gave Texas Sen. Ted Cruz some of the credit for jumping quickly on this theme after this year's State of the Union address. That's the snippet at the beginning of Staples' ad, Obama's declaration that he would exercise existing executive authority where possible since Congress wasn't doing anything. To Cruz, this was the sign of an imperial presidency, a theme that quickly caught fire. On Fox News Sunday, Utah Sen. Mike Lee declared that Obama's Affordable Care Act delays are "a shameless power grab that is designed to help the president and his political party achieve a particular outcome in a partisan election." (Obama has taken fewer executive actions than any other two-term president since Hoover, for what it's worth.)
Also on Sunday, WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah (who would also like to sell you a book about Obama's birth certificate) showed a more extreme version of the attack. He lumped Obama's pledge to take executive action in with the IRS' focus on Tea Party groups in with changes to the implementation of Obamacare. Having thrown enough stuff at the wall, Farah has put a frame around it and is now proclaiming it to be a work of art.
The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin thinks this argument, after so many fizzles, will stick. And it may: Obama's willingness to challenge Congress is certainly unusual, even if the end results of his actions are necessarily modest. Republicans have decided to press the advantage, creating the newest in a long line of "STOP Act"s that aims at "Stop[ping] this Overreaching Presidency" by rescinding certain executive actions.
But if it does stick, it will stick for the reasons Staples outlines, not the ones Farah or Rubin outline. Most of the critiques here are designed to help Republicans achieve a particular outcome in a partisan election, to paraphrase Sen. Lee. "Fortunately," Rubin writes, "voters have an election coming up when they can weigh in" on this imperialism. If you want a non-king president, come and take it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.