Republicans get ready for the political wilderness
The best they can hope for is that President Obama will get mired in wars against Iran and Afghanistan
For Republicans, the first alarm bells rang two years ago, in November, 2006, when the Democrats recaptured Congress. To use the imagery of a familiar disaster, that was when an iceberg sliced through the front portion of the Titanic's hull.
Even so, there was no great alarm on the upper deck and in the first class compartments. The smart money at that time decreed that after the hiccup of 2006, Rudy Giuliani, the great hero of 9/11, would carry the Republican ticket home this year.
The unpleasant phrase 'coming financial crisis' did not disturb the 2006 elections at all, even though the really smart money was already figuring that the prophets of doom had a point and the whole show was due to go off the rails.
By early spring of this year, political analysts were startled to observe that this same smart money was also heading in an unexpected direction - towards a young, inexperienced black Democrat. Wall Street bet on Obama early. The K Street lobbyists in Washington did the same. Big aerospace corporations like General Dynamics threw money his way.
After Republican defeat in 1964, Nixon devised the racist Southern Strategy
Along with the small contributions Obama was hauling in through the internet, a tidal wave of big contributions poured in and continues to do so. Obama promptly reneged on his agreement with John McCain that they each limit themselves to $80m in public money. He broke all records with a $150m haul announced in mid-October.
Nothing more starkly advertises the Republican disaster in 2008 than the party's funding crisis. In the battleground state of Florida, Obama has been running five advertisements to McCain's one. On Wednesday night the Democrat scheduled a half-hour infomercial costing more than $3m and running on three of the major TV networks.
McCain scarcely has a dollar left in his locker. In senate and congressional races across the country, desperate GOP candidates beseech the Republican National Committee for money to buy some airtime. Some of them even endorse Obama, as the ultimate way of distancing themselves from what they see as a doomed presidential ticket.
After all the talk about the 'Bradley effect' and the half-hidden racist vote, analysts and pollsters are beginning to figure that maybe it's pretty simple: put an unpopular war and the worst economic news in 75 years in the same pot, and you get the most elemental of all emotions inside a polling booth: the lust for retribution, starting with Bush and Cheney and heading on down a long list.
The financial crash has been devastating not just for McCain's chances, but for the Republican Party, now splitting in two. Even as the Republican high command was pumping for the $700bn bail-out, the Republican base in millions of middle-class conservative households was up in arms, firing furious emails and phone calls to their reps in Congress to vote the bill down. Those like Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who defied their constituents and pushed the bail-out through, are now fighting for their political lives.
Already influential Republicans are scheduling weekend retreats to figure out how to regroup after what looks like a defeat almost as bad as that which crushed them in 1964, when Johnson routed Goldwater.
Those were the years when Nixon's men devised the racist southern strategy, even while the right-wing think-tanks laid out the intellectual groundwork for their 30-year campaign against the social and political framework set up by the Progressives and by FDR in the New Deal.
Over the past two months the entire intellectual superstructure of the 'conservative revolution' has collapsed, with conclusive and absolute finality, nicely illustrated by the ludicrous invective lobbed by McCain at Obama.
A Republican Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs bails out the banks and all McCain and the right-wing talk show hosts can do is howl that the rather conservative and economically right-centrist Obama is a 'socialist'.
Palin’s not smart enough to get beyond delivering canned one-liners to the rubes
Nervous liberals are perennially terrified that the Brownshirts will soon be marching down Main Street. Now they worry that economic depression will spark to life a right-wing populist counter-attack, headed by Sarah Palin who is already cutting herself loose from McCain and setting herself up as the Jeanne d'Arc of Republican Renaissance in the next four years.
On her current form, she's not up to it. She's just not smart enough to get beyond canned one-liners to the rubes. And how much of a constituency will she really have, beyond the born-agains?
In the late 1960s, Nixon's speech writers had the easier task of delighting a solidly confident blue-collar constituency, many of them with good union jobs, with their sallies against pointy-head professors, liberal judges and unwashed hippy scum. That constituency is long gone, along with the jobs.
The best the Republicans can do at the moment is cling to the rigging, and then hope that President Obama will stick to his campaign promises, launch a wider war in Afghanistan and maybe Iran, sacrifice all his domestic pledges on the altar of imperial maintenance overseas and see his presidency wither and die, just as Lyndon Johnson did.
But that assumes that somehow the economic meltdown has not altered all the political coordinates; that however much against his will and political instincts, emergency may push the country and Obama willy-nilly to the left, and to policies that Republicans won't be well equipped to challenge, because their credibility as a party is in ruins. ·
Comments are now closed on this article