Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dissension in the ranks

When you consider the underlying facts of yesterday's fiasco in Congress, an interesting dynamic emerges. This was a plan that John McCain supported, even "suspending his campaign" to ostensibly help get a package written into law with the support of both parties, and one that he bragged about passing before it passed. It was also supported by President Bush, his Treasury secretary, and Congressional Republican leaders.

But it was defeated by a revolt of House Republicans. What's up with these guys? Here's David Brooks, the usually moronic conservative NYT columnist:

House Republicans led the way and will get most of the blame. It has been interesting to watch them on their single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago, they led an anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support. Then, too, they listened to the loudest and angriest voices in their party, oblivious to the complicated anxieties that lurk in most American minds.

Now they have once again confused talk radio with reality. If this economy slides, they will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century. With this vote, they’ve taken responsibility for this economy, and they will be held accountable. The short-term blows will fall on John McCain, the long-term stress on the existence of the G.O.P. as we know it.

I’ve spoken with several House Republicans over the past few days and most admirably believe in free-market principles. What’s sad is that they still think it’s 1984. They still think the biggest threat comes from socialism and Walter Mondale liberalism. They seem not to have noticed how global capital flows have transformed our political economy.

Or as Kevin Drum put it:

The Republican Party is now officially hostage to a band of primitive conservative ideologues whose knowledge of economics was already outdated when Christians were being fed to lions. They are simply beyond belief.

They are definitely a different breed, perhaps the most shameless and brainless politicians in all of American politics.

Most observers believe that even those Republicans who voted against the bill secretly wanted it to pass. They know how important this is. But they didn't want to be seen supporting it (and wanted to be able to blame Democrats for its passage later on), so they put their own political survival above the fate of the nation itself, and that's where things stand today.

Pretty damning indictment.

But more importantly, this revolt of House representatives may signal something deeper: AL believes that Republicans are beginning to jump ship from the McCain campaign:

The more I think about the events of yesterday, the more I'm convinced that a substantial faction of the GOP has essentially written off John McCain and instead has its eyes on a 2010 and 2012 resurgence. How else can you explain the RNC releasing an ad attacking the very bailout bill that John McCain is trying to rally support and take credit for?

Ben Smith reports that the ad was cut and released before the House voted yesterday, at a time when everyone thought that the bill would pass (albeit narrowly). The goal of the House Republicans was not to kill the bill. The plan was to have enough Republicans (mostly retiring Republicans and those in very safe seats) vote for the bill to allow it to pass, but have every other Republican vote against it. Once the bill was safely passed, the RNC and those in the House who voted against the bill could then turn around and stoke public resentment of it.

This strategy--had it worked--may well have helped the GOP in the long term and allowed them to reinvent themselves for 2010 and 2012. It would not, however, have helped John McCain.

I honestly don't think there's any grand strategy behind it. I think at this point, it's every Republican for himself, and that is enough to explain the revolt. It's a party in confusion and disarray, not one reinventing itself for 2010 and 2012.

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