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Sun

07

Dec

2008

For the GOP, the Economic Meltdown May Have Happened Just a Wee Bit Early
Sunday, 07 December 2008 21:00

by Bernard Weiner

Most likely, we'll never find out what really happened inside the CheneyBush Administration until after January 20, when ethically-motivated insiders feel they can spill some beans without violating their oaths of loyalty, but here's my surmising:

I think key officials inside the Administration knew that the financial system was swirling inside the economic toilet bowl and would eventuate in a massive meltdown; after all, there were numerous economists, inside and outside the government, who more than a year ago were warning about the housing bubble getting ready to burst, with disastrous impact on the availability of credit. But, in this scenario, the CheneyBush higher-ups believed that, with luck, denial and a helluva lot of deficit financing, they could delay the inevitable collapse until after the election.

The catastrophe would then happen on Obama's watch, making sure to cripple all his "liberal" plans and programs. Fixated on solving the economic crisis and unable to fulfill much of what he promised (and probably having to raise taxes for many), Obama and his Democratic majority in Congress would become highly unpopular and the Republicans would be poised for victory in the 2010 congressional elections and might well be able to take back the White House in 2012.

The problem for the Republicans was that the financial house of cards collapsed in a surprise rush, a bit too early to help McCain. Indeed, the economic crisis (and McCain's inability to deal effectively with it) was the undoing of any hope that he could pull off a victory in 2008.


THE PALIN EFFECT

It's important to remember that the presidential race was pretty much even before the financial disaster manifested itself. The polling indicated that only a percentage point or two separated Obama and McCain. Karl Rove was in his element, with a "margin of error" that would permit just enough "tweaking" in the polls and vote numbers to guarantee a Republican victory in the White House.

McCain wanted Lieberman as his running mate, but went along with the HardRight choice of Sarah Palin. Her addition to the ticket solidified the red-meat conservatives and the fundamentalists, guaranteeing that the GOP's base votes would volunteer in large numbers and show up in force on Election Day. This, they believed, would balance out the hordes of enthusiastic younger and African-American supporters who would be working and voting for Obama.

But that strategy depended on holding off the economic collapse until after November 4th. The Republicans missed their target by just a few weeks, and the rest is history. The Obama turnout was immense, and too many moderate Republicans and Independents couldn't stomach Palin's manifest ignorance and incompetence. Thus, the McCain/Palin campaign, watching the economic disaster unfold and realizing the significance of that electorally, was forced to turn to downright nasty political name-calling and implied racism as the only arrows left in their quiver.

The result was a landslide for Obama, both in terms of the popular vote (by more than 7,000,000) and, especially, in the decisive Electoral College numbers where Obama triumphed by more than a two-to-one margin.

THE GOP STRATEGY AGAINST OBAMA

Unable to keep Obama from entering the White House, the Republicans are somewhat confused now as to how to stop his programs from succeeding after Inauguration Day.

Some Republican leaders are urging the GOP to shun the extremists in charge of the party and move more toward the center, in order to capture the growing ranks of moderate Republicans and centrist Independents. Others are locked into the "we would have won if we'd been more conservative" philosophy, and are dedicated to bigger and better obstructionism in Congress.

After all, they reason, the Democratic tidal wave lapped up to the banks of the U.S. Senate but was stopped just short of the 60-vote total, thus permitting the Republicans in that body to filibuster Obama's preferred legislation.

GUMMING UP THE WORKS

In addition, Bush is doing his part by attempting to gum up the works for his successor with numerous executive orders overturning environmental safeguards, thus easing the way for polluting corporations to get what they want before the Democrats take over. He also has placed key aides under civil-service protections throughout the federal bureaucracy, there to hamstring Obama's programs from the inside.

The essence of the Republican strategy is to ensure that Obama will face concerted, unrelenting opposition from inside both Congress and his own administration, while the corporate mass-media continue their anti-Obama assaults from outside the government.

In this scenario, a weakened Obama presidency, struggling from one crisis to another and unable to gain political traction, will create the conditions for a Republican resurgency in 2010 and 2012.

THE PROGRESSIVE DILEMMA

I think the Obama transition team sees that handwriting on the wall as well, which helps explain why the President-Elect has been, in effect, assuming the mantle of the presidency by his speeches and actions well in advance of Inauguration Day, to help build up his presidential momentum and enlarge whatever political "honeymoon" period he's granted.

This is why the forces that worked for Obama's victory must remain united to counter the pressure from the Right. Ordinarily, the progressive Democratic base could be counted on to provide the bodies and support for the Obama presidency, but there are fissures inside the Democratic Party that could weaken the effort.

Many progressives, for example, feel they are being taken for granted and watch, with disappointment and anger, as Obama moves more toward the center and even the center-right in his appointments, positions and, particularly, his foreign/military policies.

Watching the Obama balancing act on the greased high-wire of the presidency is going to make for some fascinating, scary political theater during the next four years. Stay tuned for the mayhem and fun.

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: crisispapers@comcast.net 

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