Obama On The Devolution Of The Republican Party: I See A Straight Line From Sarah Palin To Donald Trump

New York Magazine today published an interview with President Obama which largely focuses on his legacy. But this is the quote that’s getting notice:

“I see a straight line from the announcement of Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential nominee to what we see today in Donald Trump, the emergence of the Freedom Caucus, the tea party, and the shift in the center of gravity for the Republican Party. Whether that changes, I think, will depend in part on the outcome of this election, but it’s also going to depend on the degree of self-reflection inside the Republican Party. There have been at least a couple of other times that I’ve said confidently that the fever is going to have to break, but it just seems to get worse.

“It also is why, I think, for Democrats, it’s important for us to understand that whether or not we are able to achieve certain policy objectives is going to be primarily dependent on how many votes we’ve got in each chamber and our ability to move public opinion. And it is not, these days, going to be as dependent on classic deal-making between Democrats and Republicans, or that we won’t move enough to the center on fiscal policy or my — not just me, but subsequent presidents — playing enough golf or drinking enough Scotch with members.

“I have very cordial relations with a lot of the Republican members. We can have really great conversations and arrive at a meeting of the minds on a range of policy issues, but if they think they’re going to lose seats or that they’re going to lose their own seat because the social media has declared that they sold out the Republican Party, then they won’t do it. That dynamic, I think, is going to be harder and harder to change because of the balkanization of the media, because of political gerrymandering.

“It is evident that Republicans pay a price for that narrowing of their perspective in presidential elections, but for the individual member of Congress in a 60 percent Republican district in Oklahoma or Arkansas or anyplace in the country, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that all his constituencies or her constituencies are watching Fox News and listening to Rush, and they’re going to pay a price if they’re seen as being too cozy with a Democratic president.”

  • bkmn

    I have to disagree. I think it is more of a downward spiral since Sarah and Trump are anything but linear.

    • Gustav2

      but…but…but they both had YUGE rallies!

      • bkmn

        With aggregate IQ’s in the double digits.

    • Todd20036

      I love “The Downward Spiral” by NIN

  • Texndoc

    I troll Trumptards all the time with the Sarah Palin reference. I mean, she was their holy savior who they were devoted to for life and she’s an asterisk today. I swear in 2020 it will be Hannity.

  • BearEyes

    “self-reflection inside the Republican Party”
    I needed a good laugh.

    • geoffalnutt

      Har!! If one is Republican it is categorically impossible to begin with!

    • BobSF_94117

      Like a vampire in a mirror, there is no self-reflection…

    • clay

      They reflected in their post-mortem autopsy report.

      • Chucktech

        Just said the same thing! Great minds…

    • Chucktech

      They’ll reflect over a Republican Party autopsy, just as they did before, and not learn a damned thing from it.

      • IamM

        It doesn’t matter how good the autopsy’s recommendations are because none of the Republicans cares about anything but maximizing their own personal grift.

    • Gerry Fisher

      Have they “hit bottom,” yet? Can we help them out in that regard? (If we can undo their gerrymandering in 2020, they’re toast.)

  • mikeinrkfd

    Thanks McCain!

  • Do Something Nice

    I see a straight line from New Gingrich to Sara Palin.

    • Mark

      Ronald Reagan since he unleashed the moral majority on us and Ralph Reed.

      • Do Something Nice

        You’re right. The nonsense with ‘elites’ started with that baffoon.

        The problem is that the country was ripe for a populist president. With the middle class getting screwed, we are at this juncture again.

        • Robincho

          Lee Atwater — buffoon or bassoon? Discuss…

          • Jerry

            For the wind ensemble, he was a buffoonist.

        • RoFaWh

          Is Hillary capable of learning a fake populist role?

          Pretending to be somewhat pro-goober might make her Presidency a more comfortable ride.

      • DesertSun59

        Indeed! Reagan said that ‘gov’t IS the problem’. And we’re now at the end of 45 years of what that has done to the national mindset.

      • Latebrosus

        Lee Atwater, Southern strategy, the Xtian right, etc., etc.

    • Blackfork

      I see a straight line from Nixon to Gingrich.

      • clay

        Yeah, but you’re (we’re) old.

        • tamiasmin

          I see a straight line from Sulla to Julius Caesar. Who’s old?

      • Do Something Nice

        I disagree. Nixon, for all his faults, seemed to agree with many Democrats. He signed laws that created OSHA, the EPA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act. He also funded cancer research and went to China.

        • clay

          and he brought in Buchanan and started the Southern Strategy. He wasn’t the first of it, but he gave it a foot-hold.

      • Reasoning101

        It’s a pattern with the Republican Party. It was consistently a minority party, so it keeps broadening its tent to take in fringe constituencies who have crazy agendas and the tenacity of pit bulls. Democratic politicians rarely feel that strong a pull from the left.

        Nixon did it to hold on to office for a second term, and Reagan did it to an epic degree that may never be replicated. It’s all well and good for those traditional conservative politicians to “marry” nutjobs for a political end, but then that foists them on us for decades. Like others, I think the GOP is going to have to splinter for its own good. They’ve poisoned the well water and the potable period is coming to an end.

    • james1200

      I think we’re fucked after Obama leaves office. Whatever our version of The Dark Ages is, we’re about to enter it. Yes, even if Hillary wins because there’s always a backlash during midterms (FDR being the only president to increase his margins during midterms) and that means the state legislatures stay overwhelmingly Republican and that means another decade of an extremist, gerrymandered Congress, that doesn’t have to cater to anyone but the lunatics.

      • Do Something Nice

        I think that’s a possibility. But I’m guessing that Clinton will be better than Obama at negotiating with Congress.

        • james1200

          Ha! Have you not been paying attention? They hate her more than they hate him, lol! It’s going to be nothing but investigations and innuendo that’ll take her down, one way or another. They couldn’t touch Obama ’cause he never, ever walked into their little ethical traps like the Clintons consistently do.

          • Tigernan Quinn

            One, calm down a little. Two, the difference with Clinton is that she has decades of experience and relationships with these people. She’s not going to be stonewalled because they are TERRIFIED of her.

        • CJAS

          Was the last six years a failure of his negotiating ability? The Republicans said that the would not deal with this (Black)President. Look no further that the current embargo on his center-right Supreme court nominee as proof.

      • DesertSun59

        It’s far worse than that. If the House remains in GOP hands, their very first act will be to begin impeachment hearings. They will NEVER give up their mythical mindset that she’s a criminal despite there never having been a single criminal act she’s every committed.

        • I doubt it. To get to impeachment hearings, the Tea Party types have to get past the Speaker of the House. I can’t imagine Paul Ryan being that stupid.

          There’s no chance of getting the 66% of Senate votes required for a conviction if they did, guaranteeing that the whole thing would be nothing but an embarrassment for Republicans. I’d be surprised if they could even make it to 50% with a Republican majority.

          • Chucktech

            You’d think that attempting to repeal Obamacare for the 156th time in the House would be an embarrassment for Republicans.

          • Amanda B. Rekendwith

            Republicans: Never making the same mistake more than 156 times.
            Well, maybe 157.

          • RoFaWh

            Gee, whiz. And here I thought the toddler in a Super Nanny video who got out of bed 67 times before finally going to sleep held some kind of record for obstinacy.

            [Or was it 65 times? No matter.]

          • IamM

            Ryan’s pretty stupid. More importantly he’s a coward, he may know impeachment is a stupid move but he’s not going to lose the speakership for acting like an adult.

          • Jerry

            Yeah…they don’t learn from past mistakes.

      • LookielouE1707

        Doesn’t the next redistricting wave happen after the 2020 elections? Might not even be a GOP by then, the party could crack up.

        And I’m hoping they try to impeach her in two years, they’ll never have the Senate votes to succeed and the backlash will only improve our results in 2020. Better they express their malice via impeachment than via more federal government shutdowns or more substantive sabotage.

        • Remember, redistricting is is handled state by state – usually by states legislatures. So for Democrats to have a meaning impact on redistricting they would need to hold governorships and some majority in state houses. Which really means, Democrats need to turn out in 2018; unfortunately, turnout is usually terrible for Democrats off-year elections.

        • RoFaWh

          Your use of “malice” is spot on, but why? What is it about Hillary Rodham Clinton that made the right target her years ago and keep her targeted right down to today?

          • Brianna Amoré

            Two words: Watergate investigation.

            Also, she’s a woman who refuses to be a good little hausfrau and do the bidding of her husband. But it was her role in the Watergate investigation that raised the ire of Republicans.

      • I don’t think it’ll be that bad. Remember that the Supreme Court has the power to declare redistricting maps unconstitutional. We should have a liberal majority on the Court for the first time in decades after Clinton takes office.

        • JCF

          …ASSUMING she’s able to get her SCOTUS pick through. If the “fever doesn’t break”, we could be stuck w/ 8 Justices (or less!) for AT LEAST 2 years…

      • Ernest Endevor

        There’s a backlash because Democrats, especially younger voters, don’t vote in midterms.

        • Ninja0980

          Yup and heaven forbid their candidate doesn’t stay 100% pure.

          • Ernest Endevor

            We saw it with president Obama.

          • Ninja0980

            Yup, staying home and letting Republicans get control worked wonders in getting progressive ideas through didn’t it?

          • RoFaWh

            Always factor human nature into your calculations. It never changes and it always includes lots of imperfections.

        • CJAS

          The party in power almost always loses that first off-year election.

      • Gerry Fisher

        I thought the 2020 election determined gerrymandering (errr…”redistricting”) rights?

        • james1200

          You’re right, it will but I doubt we’ll do any better in 2020 with state legislatures unless Hillary has a wildly successful first term. The likely debacle of 2018 is going to be hard to come back from, like how we didn’t do much better in 2012 in state legislatures after the nightmare election of 2010 took down so many Democrats.

      • Jerry

        There’s a better chance that we’ll control more state legislatures for the next redistricting, as 2020 is a presidential election…though it’s hard to tell what will happen in 2018.

    • Gerry Fisher

      He was describing a line segment. Yes, the line extends further.

    • Adam Schmidt

      Earlier still, it started with Nixon. Nixon is the one that initiated (with Goldwater) the Southern Strategy with the intention of courting conservative Southern voters who were disaffected with the Democrats. Reagan amped up the whole process with attacks on “the Welfare state”, affirmative action, and using coded language to signal to his supporters that he was on their side when it came to their racist beliefs. But again, he worked to bring in those Southern social conservatives, the same group that would grow up to become the Tea Party and the core of the Alt-Right.

      Nixon and Reagan set the stage for Palin and Trump, inviting in racist and religious extremists in the pursuit of the short term gains of “conservative” voters but poisoning their base in the process. What we’ve seen ever since has been just a continuation of those social conservatives instilling absolutist conformity in the GOP. Now reaching across the aisle somehow means dealing with people you were calling a traitor or in league with the devil just yesterday. How can you possibly work with someone you’ve been telling your supporters is working with terrorists or is un-American?

      This isn’t two competing visions of America, it’s one vision is American while the other is traitorous, in league with forces bent on the destruction of our way of life, and intent on subjugating you and everyone you love to their communist, anti-Christian, fascist. dictatorship. And if that’s what the opposition is, how could you EVER possibly suggest that maybe the other guy isn’t really out to eat babies and maybe we should consider working with them?

  • Tigernan Quinn

    Dead to rights, Mr. President. And I think we’re a bit fucked because the one thing the Founding Fathers never really factored in were Americans who refused to work for the greater good out of spite. Of all the centuries of issues the Constitution has withstood, basic Republican pettiness is the thing that’s making it fray.

    • DesertSun59

      Very good insight.

    • fastlanestranger

      “I’m sorry sir, but you can’t return a coat out of spite.”

      • kareemachan

        “And sorry, we don’t take any bootstraps, either.”

    • Gerry Fisher

      Pettiness fueled by racism (among other isms). Our inability to face and deal with our racist past and present is killing us.

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    • Nic Peterson

      As a general rule, I prefer that most people throw shade only to the extent that their own shadow can support it. Barry gets a pass, forever.

    • Daveed_WOW

      No argument there, but the Republican Party has a will of its own as well as its own establishment leaders. They need to assert themselves and put down the lunatics once and for all. Let’s make sure they lose and lose big with their Palin/Trump strategy. The gatekeepers need to step up.

      • Daveed, think about that – who are the GOP “establishment” “leadership”… the lunatics have taken over the asylum and we’re doomed.

        • Daveed_WOW

          uh oh. I was thinking it was John McCain and Jeb Bush. But they got whooped.

  • Dramphooey

    This is simply great and is spot-on analysis. He’s going to be like Truman. It really took years for Truman to be seem by most everyone as a great President. It really frustrates me when people don’t see this.

    • skyweaver

      They will. It’ll just take a while. Sometimes you’ve got to get out of the badlands before you realize how bad they really were, and how lucky we were that we had him at the helm during this time

    • james1200

      His approvals have skyrocketed in the past year. People already get it.

    • Reality.Bites

      It’s different. Truman was white.

    • David Milley

      I’ve been comparing Obama to FDR; history may well improve on that comparison.

    • William

      Truman sat on his hands while Churchill gave eastern Europe to Stalin.

  • Bill

    I’m going to miss this man.

  • Skokieguy [Larry]

    He’s using intelligent and well though out language. This will sound like the teachers in a Charlie Brown cartoon. Damn librul elitist.

    Perhaps we should translate into Trumpish:

    Republican are losers. Big poopy-heads, low energy, stupid losers.

  • clay

    Wow, Pat Buchanan’s got to be feeling totally left out.

    • David Walker

      A girl can hope.

      • clay

        I hope he’s left out forevermore.

  • teeveedub

    I watched a good chunk of the 2008 VP debate on C-Span over the weekend, and I was remembering how stupid we all thought she was as the result of her performance in that debate. But at least she tried to prepare. She made an actual, if clumsy, effort to prove that she had memorized the names of world leaders. She tried.

    That’s a helluva lot more than I can say for Trump.

    • stuckinthewoods

      You raise the scary consideration that even Palin would be preferable to Trump.

      • teeveedub

        Uh, no. Not going that far. She’s just running a different kind of grift.

    • John T

      Watching VP debates from 8 years ago? You should go see a doctor about your masochism problem.

      • teeveedub

        I realized that even as I was watching. But it was fascinating to see how tame things were compared to today’s shitshow. And we were outraged back then!

    • RoFaWh

      But Drumpf can concentrate when he wants to. There’s a video (perhaps posted here on JMG) of Drumpf touting his “Drumpf Steaks sold only at The Sharper Image.” He speaks his scripted lines with complete ease. Somebody somewhere managed to get him to actually learn his lines.

      Perhaps it is that when Drumpf smells a good con, he suddenly perks up and gets interested. [This reasoning fails because surely the Presidency would be a good platform for the best con of all, yet he clearly didn’t lift a finger to get ready for the debate.]

    • Jerry

      I remember her acting like she’d just won the lottery because she could pronounce the name of the Iranian president.

  • Bill Post

    Reminding people of Momma gristley and how every utterance and FB post were headlines… sudder to think whar Mccain gave us.

    • William

      Tina Fey can never be thanked enough.

  • Rex

    The Devolution?
    Was there ever an Evolution?
    They seem to be stuck in the 1850’s.

  • Sam_Handwich

    i see stupid angry white people.

    • pj

      real dumb

    • RoFaWh

      Perhaps, perhaps.

      But let us ask the question, why are they so angry, ditto for their stupidity?

      Sadly part of the answer must be the twenty or so years of incessant propaganda from Fox News, but there must be other factors of importance.

      • CJAS

        I’m guessing the slightly diminished value of whiteness as social capital.

  • Rex

    You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still the GOPig.

  • DaddyRay

    I heard a distinct flushing noise

  • delk

    I was just thinking the other day that we haven’t heard a peep from Sarah. I guess that’s about to change.

    • MBear

      say her name 3x and she appears, word salad in tow?

    • jimbo65

      She’s almost as thinned skin as he is. Wouldn’t be surprised if she comes down from hillbilly mountain to do a rebuttal.

    • Chucktech

      That’s because she realized that her Trump’s VP spot was a fever dream that will not be realized.

  • Blake Mason

    He went there. The “Farewell: No More Fuck’s to Give Tour” continues.

  • OdieDenCO

    wow, I had to look up balkanization, I was thinking, noway President Obama is making up words.

    • skyweaver

      God, that’s genius! Promptly stealing.

  • askDominick

    The American right is no longer conservative, it is reactionary.

    • IamM

      I think it has been for a long time. At the very least a significant and growing part of it since the sixties, and crossed a tipping point of increasingly dominating the GOP by the nineties.

  • DesertSun59

    Basically, Obama has pointed out that the GOP no longer exists.

  • Frostbite

    Yeah, but can you see Russia from your house? Because Palin can!

    • edrex

      Hell. I can see Russia INSIDE of Trump’s house.

  • LeeCMH


    Lunatic Fringe
    I know you’re out there
    You’re in hiding
    And you hold your meetings
    I can hear you comin’
    I know what your after
    We’re wise to you this time
    (Wise to you this time)
    We won’t let you kill the laughter

    Uh huh
    Uh huh
    Uh huh

    Lunatic fringe
    In the twilight’s last gleaming
    This is open season
    But you won’t get too far
    Cause you gotta blame someone
    For your own confusion
    We’re on guard this time
    (On guard this time)
    Against your final solution
    Oh no

    Uh huh
    Uh huh
    Uh huh

    We can hear you comin’
    (We can hear you comin’)
    No, you’re not gonna win this time
    (Not gonna win)
    We can hear the footsteps
    (We can hear the footsteps)
    Way out along the walkway
    (Out along the walkway)

    Lunatic fringe
    We all know you’re out there
    Can you feel the resistance
    Can you feel the thunder

    • KCMC


  • SoCalGal20
    • clay

      “Trumpwad” sooooo appropriate! I might adopt that to use for his (two adult) sons.

      • SoCalGal20

        LOL I edited it but yes that was a good typo. 😉

      • William

        Don’t leave out Ivanka and Doorstop.

      • RoFaWh


        What is the German for “wad”?

  • Kelly Lape

    Thanks Obama – God forbid Trump wins, Sarah will now be in government.

  • Acronym Jim

    It’s more like a drunken, stumbling line from Palin to Trump.

  • Michael


  • The_Wretched

    Let’ s not forget to name the Senator From Turtle as a key actor in the dysfunction and loony-bin governance of the last 8 years.

    • Chucktech

      From his lips came the declaration of ensuring Obama was a one term president.

    • Ninja0980

      Indeed, can’t point out the crazies without acknowledging the “sane” people let them run amuk.

  • GanymedeRenard
  • Oikos
  • Skeptical_Inquirer

    His autobiography about the Presidential years will be amazing.

  • tim870

    This could only be better if he had said “derpe, derpe, derpe….”

  • joe ho

    And the Democrats have failed entirely by not concentrating on mid-term elections.

    That negligence gave statehouses to the GOP. That’s where the gerrymandering, electoral suppression, anti-abortion and anti-gay laws are being enacted.

    And they still can’t get Latinos to vote in the numbers they should.

    • Ninja0980

      Yup and when that happens, they have no one to run for governor, Senate etc.

      • RoFaWh

        I was heavily involved in organizing a gardening conference about 25 years ago. We never asked for volunteers to handle this or that facet of a surprisingly complex operation. Instead, the organizing committee would contemplate the members (and some non-members), pick out someone they felt would be good at the job, and then ask them to do it.

        My point? If the Democratic Party wants to run good candidates for such positions, they have to get off their asses and track them down.

        • Ninja0980

          Yup, something Howard Dean tried to push forward.

  • NMNative
  • NancyP

    He’s right. Gerrymandering has wrecked the American political system.

    • IamM

      Yep. Politicians should need to appeal to all the people they’re supposed to represent, not just worry about their party’s hardline fringe.

  • Jean-Marc in Canada
  • m_lp_ql_m

    “Are we not Republicans? We are Devo!”

    • RoFaWh

      I used to know someone who’d been in one of the sacks that writhed around the stage at Devo concerts.

      Am I not special? Worship me! (Don’t let Donny hear; he’d be bigly jealous.)

  • Ninja0980

    The seeds for this were really sown in the 90’s with Newt and his Republican revolution.
    That is where the notion the other side was the enemy and where shutting down the government and refusing to work with the other side were acceptable norms.
    The teabagger Congress and Trump are the end result of that.

  • Queequeg

    He’s correct, but actually, incomplete. I see a straight line from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to Sarah Palin to Trump. Scary shit.

  • Pollos Hermanos
  • ultragreen

    The entire political system has been going downhill since the 1970s. This applies to BOTH Democrats and Republicans.

    • Daveed_WOW

      I don’t agree with that. Things are cyclical and there is a great deal of back of forth. Clearly American life is better now than it has ever been before.

    • thewendyb

      You display your ignorance with such pride! You

  • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ec1eea8bf893e7dd8d074a60a14076e94c182276987d8b7c0c59712a73fb2f3c.jpg

    Oh. I will post this once again, because it strikes at the heart of this issue.

  • buckguy

    It took him long enough to figure this out. It should have been obvious during his first term and he made significant tactical mistakes because of it (like dismantling Howard Dean’s effort to rebuild state parties).

    • kareemachan

      Oh, I am sure he knew it all along, but he can only do so much with the amount of blindered obstructionism they were determined to carry out. The thing that I am betting had Obama banging his head against the wall was McConnell pouting and saying that he should have TOLD them what a shitty bill they just overrode his veto on.

      Really? YOU craft the bill and now are having a hissy fit cuz “OBAMA NEVER TOLD US!!!11!!”

  • You missed a step, son… Shrub to Drumph.

  • Boy Elvis

    Maybe from Quayle, or even Spiro Agnew.

  • andrew

    It seems to me that there is a pretty straight line from Nixon’s Southern Strategy to the Republican Party of today. Starting in 1948, the National Democratic Party began to slowly move away from it Southern and Border States racists/segregationist wing. Nixon’s Southern Strategy began the embrace of these folks into the Republican Party. The results are obvious today.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I can’t wait to hear with Caribou Barbie has to say about this.

  • JCF

    Love My Prez, but…

    …really kinda wish he’d figured this out in 2009. :-/