by Cheryl Rofer
In some universes, this would be unbelievable. A political party came into power when budget surpluses were so large that there was concern about what would happen when the US stopped issuing its well-regarded bonds. This political party took care of that by spending all those surpluses down into debt and, in the process, wrecked the economy, started a couple of disastrous wars and badly damaged the country’s standing in the world. Now that it has been voted out of power, with minorities in both houses of Congress, it still insists that St. Jude’s (Wanniski) tax miracles be invoked, even after the failure of last year’s try. Further, as the country rapidly slides into recession and the financial institutions stand by, furnishing their executive offices with $1400 wastebaskets, that expectation of miracles is so strong that the faithful choose financial immolation for the country rather than to go along with sin in the form of providing jobs for those for whom $14 wastebaskets are pricey.
But not the universe of the Republican Party. Their members in the House of Representatives stood as one, resisted the pleadings and have stood foursquare with St. Herbert (Hoover). For this, they were congratulated by their new Party Chair, Michael Steele.
Steve Benen gets their narrow view of the politics pretty much right. No sense in giving the enemy a success. Might as well let the country slide down the tubes if the alternative might benefit the Democratic Party. And hey, the free market will just right itself! That’s what St. Herbert said.
I wonder how much they are thinking about the future. Gallup is looking at the state of the political parties. By their measure, there are only four solidly Republican states, one leaning. Eleven are pretty evenly divided. The rest lean or are solidly Democratic.
Which are the Republican states? If you guessed the states of the Deep South, home of the faithful remnants of the Dixicrats who flew the coop when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you would be wrong. Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina are evenly divided. The solidly Republican states are Alaska, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Nebraska leans Republican.
Presumably voting African-Americans in the Deep South balance the Dixicrat remnants. Those upper Rocky Mountain states are the home of religiously-conservative Mormons, along with the survivalist and neo-Nazi cults tucked far away from law enforcement and the eyes of the mainstream media. These people, like John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh, believe that women should be barefoot and pregnant and that the gummint shouldn’t be takin’ their tax dollars.
And so the Republican Party has marginalized itself. They now have a SarahPAC to help solidify the support of that base, the 26% of voters who approve of what the Republicans in Congress are doing. However a majority of the country, even of Republican voters, support the stimulus package.
We have seen President Obama very cannily courting the Republicans: modifications to the stimulus package, two, now three Republican appointments to his cabinet, this latest even with a Republican replacement in the Senate by a Democratic governor. Country first, as John McCain might say. Obama is setting himself up as stretching out his open hand to those with clenched fists, if the issue turns out to be bipartisanship.
The Republicans counter with unsupportable claims, mainly that there is a complete disjunction between the Democratic bill and jobs, that supporting collapsing state budgets and will not provide jobs. As Barney Frank pointed out on Sunday, those funds will keep cops and teachers in their jobs. Or between building infrastructure and tax cuts; according to the Republican doctrine, the first will not provide jobs, but the second will.
The ultimate test, of course, will be whether the economy recovers, however the legislation turns out. To go back to Steve Benen’s analysis, if the economy recovers the Democrats will get the credit; if it doesn’t the Republicans can say they told us so.
But will that really be the case? Robert Reich attributes Tom Daschle’s withdrawal from nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services to a populist uprising. If the stimulus fails, we’ll be able to recall who threw the monkey wrench in the machinery, or tried to. We recall St. Herbert’s pronouncements and actions, or lack thereof. Why not John McCain’s and Mitch McConnell’s?
I’ve held back from opining on the future of the Republican Party. I grew up a Republican, of that extinct species called Rockefeller Republicans, having been (and more or less continuing to be) fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Until I realized that there was no longer room for me in the Republican Party. I spend several weekends each year in the birthplace of the Republican Party and contemplate how northern businessment took a pragmatic look at what slavery was contributing to their competition, how they formed a new political party to address the economic and moral damage slavery was doing to the nation, and how they started a liberal arts college to improve the future of their young people. They lucked out and got a charismatic candidate for President in the election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln.
Political parties, like the Whigs of that time, die when they cannot face the realities of their times. The Democratic Party has been with us since the beginning of the country, but it has managed to reinvent itself several times.
If Obama’s measures to fix the economy work, the political climate in 2010 will be very different. The same is true if the measures don’t work. It’s clear that the Republican Party has to move beyond being the party of Rush Limbaugh and Herbert Hoover, but many specifics will be lacking until events play out further. Sarah Palin’s apparent inclination toward the dark side of populism may win out if the economy seriously deteriorates.
That’s a dreadful prospect to depend on. But right now it looks like one of the futures that would be acceptable to the Republicans.
Also check out what Josh Marshal has to say. The Republicans have, once again, pulled our attention away from the country to them and their ideologies.
And now that the fearless Democrats have managed to delay the start of digital television, will they be able to put that courage to passing a stimulus package that is likely to work? Stay tuned. John Cole and Steve Benen are following the follies more closely than we will. Lots of outrage at those links.