Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Parties Treat Americans as Pawns in Their Partisan Games

Created: 26 January, 2015
Updated: 15 October, 2022
8 min read
After the results of the 2014 midterm elections were in, IVN published

an article suggesting that Vice President Joe Biden may have intentionally sabotaged independent Greg Orman's campaign in the Kansas U.S. Senate race by saying there was no doubt in his mind that Orman would caucus with Democrats.

Biden essentially gave incumbent U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R) the soundbite he needed to vindicate his claim that Orman was really a Democrat disguised as an independent. It is the go-to strategy for major-party candidates when they are in a race against independent or third-party candidates.

Going into Election Day, statewide polls suggested that the race between Orman and Roberts would be nail-biter. Nationwide polls also showed a close race for control of the U.S. Senate. At the time, very few predicted the Republicans would take as many seats as they did.

Of course, very few anticipated voter turnout to be so dismal. Gallup even predicted a rise in turnout compared to previous midterm elections.

Democrats had more to lose in the 2014 midterms than Republicans did. The GOP's control of the U.S. House was not in jeopardy and it was already the minority party in the U.S. Senate.

So why would Joe Biden intentionally do something to help a Republican incumbent when it was widely believed at the time that control of the U.S. Senate would come down to the winner of the Kansas Senate race? This has to be a conspiracy theory from a bitter supporter of Orman, right? Old Joe just made one of his classic “goofs.”

However, a claim that Biden secretly wanted to help Roberts is no crazier than a Republican who did everything he could to keep a Democratic candidate on the ballot. The average person does not think like a partisan politician, consultant, or strategist; there is always an end game being played to explain seemingly odd behavior that many people find baffling.

In Edward Klein's book,

Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas, the author suggests that Bill Clinton considered sabotaging Obama's campaign by going softer on Romney than Obama's people were hoping from Slick Willie.

“Bill felt it would obviously be better for Hillary to run in 2016 against an incumbent Republican president rather than run after eight years of a tired and bloodied Democrat like Obama,” Klein quotes an anonymous source identified only as one of Bill Clinton’s oldest friends. “Bill being Bill, however, he was sharpening his skills for Hillary’s campaign either way.” (Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas, pg. 95)

Klein's book relies heavily on anonymous sources, which sticks out like a loose nail to an objective observer. The reason people would want to remain anonymous in a book like this is obvious. These are people who are close or have been close to powerful and influential people. Needless to say, jobs, political careers, and associations would be at risk. Still, it does raise some questions over the credibility of these sources.

However, Klein brings up something about Clinton that sounds oddly familiar when we think about Joe Biden. Going into the 2012 presidential election, Bill Clinton was 65 years old. He had suffered from years of serious medical issues, including emergency surgeries in 2004, 2005, and 2010. Klein notes in his book that Clinton looked incredibly frail and weak, and this concerned Obama’s people.

According to Klein, Clinton was aware of how many people saw him, and was able to use this to his advantage. In an interview with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein on CNN, Clinton was asked about Romney’s business experience and whether or not the Republican nominee was qualified to be president.

After spending some time discussing Romney’s business experience, Clinton said:

“There is no question that in terms of getting up and going to the office and, you know, basically performing the essential functions of the office, [Romney] who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.”  - Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas, pg. 98

As one might expect, Obama’s people were not happy about this, according to Klein. The author also says Clinton apologized for “misspeaking.” He even played the same old geezer card that is used to vindicate Biden’s “goofs.”

“In the upcoming presidential election,” Klein writes, “Bill Clinton had two quite legitimate — and often warring — interests. On one hand, he wanted to take credit for Obama’s reelection. On the other, he could see the advantages to Hillary and the Clinton Brand if Obama lost, which would allow Clinton to grab control of the Democratic Party.” (Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas, pg. 101)

Klein does not make much of an effort to disguise his conservative bias — whether it is specific language he uses or the overall tone of the book. His books are targeted at an audience with a specific political ideology, people who would respond to praises from Glenn Beck, Rubert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh, and Dick Cheney (seriously all found on the back cover).

However, it is not hard to believe some of the claims made in this book or that the Obamas and the Clintons really don’t like each other, and even despise each other. It is also not hard to believe that Bill Clinton considered not helping Obama as much as he really could because he secretly hoped Romney would win to better set up Hillary in a 2016 presidential run.

Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have an invested interest in the future of the Democratic Party, and both men have different ideas about what that future should look like. Both men are also skilled campaigners and strategists who know how to play "the game."

Fast forward to 2014. Heading into Election Day, several reports surfaced that the White House was already preparing to lose the U.S. Senate and Congress completely. With the GOP in control of both chambers of Congress, Democrats can easily point across the aisle when things don’t get accomplished or when lawmakers play partisan games with important pieces of legislation — like spending bills.

“A Republican Congress is probably one of Biden’s best tools. Democratic control of the Senate would have shifted too much blame and attention on his own party, but a Republican Congress will serve only as a target for Democratic strategists and advertisers,” IVN contributor David Yee writes.

So again we must ask, were the Orman comments a moment of absentmindedness by the vice president or a deliberate and well-thought out strategy from a seasoned politician and campaigner with smart partisan advisers at his side? Democrats may have lost some seats in 2014, but they could make huge gains in 2016 if things go their way — including holding onto the White House.

Immediately following the 2014 midterm elections, President Obama and other White House officials began laying the groundwork for the presidential election. The president suddenly acted aggressively on not only major domestic issues, but issues that can create a wedge in the GOP, including net neutrality, immigration, and the Cuba embargo.

Obama set the trap by signing executive orders and strongly advocating for certain reforms, and Republicans took the bait. The most outspoken Republican lawmakers came out and blasted the president on these issues, some of whom have future presidential ambitions.

Net neutrality became a debate about a free and open Internet versus protecting business interests. The debate on illegal immigration became about keeping families together versus kicking them all out and increasing border security. The debate on the Cuba embargo became about ending a 50-year policy that wasn’t working versus maintaining the status quo regardless.

Though neither side offers a real discussion on any of these issues, it was the outcome that President Obama wanted — and Republicans continue to dance to his tune.

During his State of the Union address, Obama combined touting economic growth and health care reform successes with calls for bipartisanship.

“So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision. Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.” - President Barack Obama, State of the Union

While Obama expressed an optimistic view of unity and being able to change the status quo in Washington to better serve Americans (no matter how sincere or committed he is to accomplish this), Republicans looked like the party that would not even stand up and clap over the economy doing better and millions of jobs being created.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who had an opportunity to point out that the president has not done much to lead real bipartisan cooperation between the major parties in the official GOP response, chose instead to reflect on person anecdotes and pet issues with a robotic demeanor that made it sound like Siri was giving the Republican response.

Nothing is going to change in Washington under the status quo. Current electoral systems in most states prevent any real change from happening because both parties will continue to play their games while denying Americans true representation. And unfortunately, that is how most partisan lawmakers see politics in America — as a game.

Unfortunately, independent candidates often do not have the resources to effectively challenge major-party candidates. Both major parties have manipulated election and campaign laws to maintain their dominance in elections and silence outside voices.

Republicans and Democrats continue to push laws that disenfranchise millions of voters, diminish voting power, and keep elections uncompetitive. If anyone challenges the status quo, they turn to the courts to preserve their power over elections. The only way to fix the American political system is to demand a nonpartisan system that gives every voter greater power at the polls and ensures that every eligible voter has full, equal, and meaningful access to the voting process.

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