The nasty, mendacious creativity of the present, cornered GOP really does seem to know no bounds. The near economic collapse that occurred on their watch, fostered by their ideology and their mismanagement, Republicans have decided to blame on poor non-whites. “Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster” that Congress should have warned the lenders about, they were saying on Fox News, as though someone forced the financial industry to go out and make all those sub-prime loans and sell them to each other. (“Allow under pressure of furious lobbying” would be the more appropriate verb phrase for Congress’s attitude toward virtually unrestricted lending lately.) A century or so ago GOP jurists called those kind of bad deals “freedom of contract,” and unlike the 19th-century workers whose complaints were usually rejected, our modern financiers actually did have a choice when they made these bad bargains. For instance, they had the choice of actually requiring proof of borrowers’ source of income, a standard that I gather had been largely abandoned by many lenders.
This latest conservative meme is a breathtakingly yet typical effort to project and racialize systemic, top-down economic failures — it’s only those people who go bankrupt, lose their homes, etc.
Of course, lots of ordinary middle-class Republicans and business page columnists, raised on the small government gospel, are suffering tremendous cognitive dissonance at sight of their party engineering what must be dollar-wise the largest public invasion of the private sector in American history. GOP leaders have naturally seen in their followers’ confusion a chance to spin more fantasies and try to turn the responsible efforts of others to clean up the mess they have made into one more desperate political ploy. Here’s Ed Kilgore, writing in The Democratic Strategist:
Every Democrat should read Patrick Ruffini’s post from yesterday at NextRight. He is, I strongly suspect, perfectly reflecting the game that Republicans, including Team McCain, want to play with the Paulson Plan:
God Himself couldn’t have given rank-and-file Republicans a better opportunity to create political space between themselves and the Administration. That’s why I want to see 40 Republican No votes in the Senate, and 150 in the House. If a bailout is to pass, let it be with Democratic votes. Let this be the political establishment (Bush Republicans in the White House Democrats in Congress) saddling the taxpayers with hundreds of billions in debt (more than the Iraq War, conjured up in a single weekend, and enabled by Pelosi, btw), while principled Republicans say “No” and go to the country with a stinging indictment of the majority in Congress….
In an ideal world, McCain opposes this because of all the Democratic add-ons and shows up to vote Nay while Obama punts.
History has shown us that “inevitable” “emergency” legislation like the Patriot Act or Sarbanes-Oxley is never more popular than on the day it is passed — and this isn’t all that popular to begin with. All the upside comes with voting against it.
Ruffini is exactly right about the politics of this issue, especially for Republicans. Think of this as one of those periodic votes on raising the public debt limit. It has to pass, of course, but there’s zero percentage in supporting it for any one individual. The speculative costs of the legislation actually failing are completely intangible and ultimately irrelevant, while the costs it will impose are tangible and controversial from almost every point of view. For McCain and other Republicans, voting “no” on Paulson without accepting the consequences of that vote is the political equivalent of a bottomless crack pipe: it will please the conservative “base,” distance them from both Bush and “Washington,” and let them indulge in both anti-government and anti-corporate demagoguery, even as Democrats bail out their Wall Street friends and big investors generally.
Josh Marshall has links to more material in this vein here.
So, to go historical for a second here, current Republicans apparently want to turn the Paulson bailout plan into the new “Tariff of Abominations,” a policy of theirs that they hope will reflect even worse on their opponents. The fabled Tariff of 1828 was a Democratic-originated bill that their hated enemy President John Quincy Adams signed into law. Adams was then furiously denounced for signing it in the ensuing campaign, which he lost, especially by tariff-hating southerners who had no choice (by their proslavery lights) but to keep supporting Democratic candidate Andrew Jackson whatever his northern allies had done. The traditional stories that this was all a plot by Martin Van Buren to allow Jackson to run as both pro- and anti-protection, and that the bill was intended to fail, are now thought to be somewhat mythical. (Wikipedia seems pretty good on the topic, or you can read Frederick Jackson Turner about it on Google books.) If the Tariff of 1828 was a Van Buren plot, it was a little too clever. Jackson would probably have won anyway, John C. Calhoun-led South Carolina would soon try to destroy or hamstring the Union over the issue, and the enmity of many southern Democrats for Van Buren would burn for decades, eventually getting him thrown out of the presidency.
I am guessing any serious effort to boomerang the Bush administration’s bailout against the Democrats or to help John McCain will also turn out to be a little too clever. It might help soothe the aching heads of some in the GOP base, but the Bush brand of Republicans-as-irresponsible-rich-people is a little too well-established by now. That’s what a lot of Republican voters I know seem to like about them.