For the GOP, the Economic Meltdown May Have
Happened Just a Wee Bit Early
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
December 2, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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