This Election Could Transform the Country,
the GOP, and Capitalism
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
October 28, 2008
As I write this, things are looking good for an Obama victory, perhaps one
of huge proportions. But well aware of the GOP's history of massive
voter-suppression and voter intimidation (examples of which are in the news
each day**), and the below-the-radar vote-counting manipulations, and quite
cognizant of the dark strain of racism in American society, I'm not assuming
the election's in the bag.
A landslide Obama turnout may not be enough. It may take an electoral
victory of tsunami proportions to counter the Rove-ian dirty tricks
operations, which is why so many of us are heading toward swing states this
week to help make that happen.
So as the campaigns enter their final week, I thought I'd take a longer view
of the political landscape and see what the post-Inauguration future might
look like. Short version: Were Obama to emerge victorious, this election
could well be transformative in a number of areas beyond the obvious one of
celebrating America's rendezvous with history.
NEVER-CEASING GOP CAMPAIGN
Republican leaders are quite aware of this transformative possibility and
will do everything between now and next Tuesday to make sure that doesn't
happen. But if Obama were to win, even with a blow-out victory, one can
safely predict that a President Obama would enjoy no traditional "honeymoon"
in his first months in office. The HardRightists, the same ones who have
been fighting Obama so viciously and disgracefully during the campaign, are
not about to call it quits after November.
Palin got their blood boiling, their prejudices affirmed, their extremism
sanctioned. The HardRightists on their way out will not take kindly to being
separated from the levers and organ$ of power. They will do everything to
ensure that a President Obama will face unwavering attacks from his first
day in office. No surrender, no making nice, no civil discourse. This
likelihood will be even worse if the Republicans hold on to enough Senate
seats to continue filibustering Democratic proposals.
These rightwing forces more or less did the same thing to Bill Clinton right
after he assumed the presidency in 1992. From day one, they invented
supposed "scandals" one right after the other to upset his momentum,
distract him from governance, hope some of the mud would stick; eventually,
they even went so far as to get him impeached, thus wrecking any movement of
his centrist-liberal agenda throughout much of Clinton's second term.
Luckily, the American people widely agreed that the Republicans went way too
far in hounding Clinton -- that lying about sex did not rise to the level of
impeachable offenses -- and successfully pressured the Senate not to
HOW REPUBLICAN PARTY COULD SPLIT
It's obvious that if the Republicans are swept badly in both the
presidential contest and in the Senate and House next week, there will be
major soul-searching within the party, perhaps even a split into two openly
warring camps rather than the relatively covert civil war currently being
waged, as fingers of blame are being pointed over their current chaotic
campaign. It will be the night of the long knives as the two sides try to
control the future of the Republican Party.
One camp, more ideological at heart (with Sarah Palin, if she's not indicted
in Alaska, playing a key role), will argue that the Republicans lost because
they "weren't conservative enough," that they sold out the ideological
"purity" of the party by taking wishy-washy stands instead of proudly
championing more solidly "conservative" causes. In essence, Palin staffers
are starting to propound this case and, at least according to key McCain
staffers, who have referred to Palin as a "diva" who is shedding her McCain
minders and going "rogue," she can be expected to strike out even more on
her own along these extreme lines. You betcha.
The other camp, the more pragmatic-realist side (with perhaps a key role
played by Colin Powell), will argue that the voters are telling the GOP
loudly and clearly that Rove's narrow, base-oriented political strategy
doesn't work anymore. The Republicans, they will say, blew their opportunity
by going too far to the right and, in so doing, took the country into an
unwinnable war, wrecked the economy and risked destroying the party. An
obtuse McCain, full of himself and his biography, made no changes from that
base-only strategy. To regain power, these traditional-conservative critics
might argue, the GOP has to distance itself from the extremists and
neo-cons, jettison the smear-politics, and move closer to the Republican
Party's moderate locus.
In this scenario, the Democrats would rule from the center-left, and the
Republicans, to be competitive, would have to offer a more center-right
agenda, resting on a conservative ideology but made more palatable to an
American citizenry that eschews extremism and hovers mostly around the
It's not likely but it is possible that the competing Republican wings will
be unable to find a way of sharing power, the result being two distinct
political entities, perhaps with the extreme rightwingers joining forces
with all sorts of fringe parties and groups.
HOW THE DEMOCRATS COULD SPLIT
If Obama carries his party to victory, especially so if the Democrats sweep
both the House and Senate, the new president might well be able to pass
significant changes in laws from the CheneyBush years, dealing with
tax-reform, education and health care, as well as restoring respect for
Constitutional protections and starting the withdrawal from Iraq, etc.
But if Obama were to be aced out of the presidency due to clear illegalities
and outright theft of the election -- being the third Democrat to be so
denied under suspicious circumstances in just a few years -- the despair and
anger unleashed would be incalculable. Talk about "revolution" and/or
leaving the country might suddenly become very real for many. This would
especially be the case if the "losing" candidate and the Dems hadn't put up
a fight in the courts for an honest, transparent recount in states where the
evidence of electoral fraud is widespread.
Internally, there would be major blood-letting and transformation of the
Democratic Party. As with the Republicans, the Dems might well carry out a
political civil war between two opposing camps.
One can well imagine that the more centrist/party establishment camp would
think long and hard before nominating another African-American as its
standard-bearer. They would look for a plain vanilla, non-controversial
candidate, one willing to compromise principles and imitate what the
successful Republicans do. GOP lite, in other words.
The more progressive wing of the party might well argue that the party
"lost" because it moved away from its traditional Democratic values and
principles in a desire to make itself more palatable to Independents and
wayward Republicans. In other words, because it "wasn't liberal enough."
As speculated above with regard to the Republicans, it's possible but not
likely that the fractured Democratic Party could split into two openly
warring political entities, with the progressives, for example, attempting
to make an alliance with the Greens, Naderites and disaffected moderate
Republicans under a new party banner.
THE APPEARANCE OF SEMI-"SOCIALISM"
But regardless of who is installed in the White House in January, one thing
is clear: American capitalism's financial and social/political system, which
has undergone enormous shocks in the past few months, may never revert back
to the status quo ante.
The clearest signs of this transformative shift:
1. George W. Bush and Henry Paulson, true believers in unregulated
free-market capitalism, overnight became semi-"socialist" in behavior.
Reality made it necessary for them to compromise their free-market ideology
and partially nationalize banks and giant financial institutions. A
monumental catastrophe does that to you. You can't return to the
conservative shibboleths that clearly had failed.
2. Alan Greenspan, the grand doyen behind the American economy for nearly
four decades, admitted in public testimony before Congress that the
laissez-faire deregulation philosophy that has guided his life is badly
flawed. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank said the current
economic meltdown in the U.S., which has now spread its major recession all
over the globe, rested on faulty "models." He was shocked, shocked!,
to learn this. We're supposed to believe that the possibility of widespread
failure of those greed-at-any-price models never occurred to him. Right.
Those "models," which were pushed by far-right conservative thinkers like
Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, derived from an ideological belief that a free
market always corrects its excesses, thus keeping the dread hand of
government off the financial tiller. Now, Greenspan admits, there appears to
be a necessary role for government regulation when banks and other financial
institutions don't act in their own self-interest. It's still
"SELF-interest," you see, since the Randian conservatives, of which
Greenspan is one, refuse to recognize the concept of a "PUBLIC interest."
REGULATION NECESSARY FOR SURVIVAL
Given the complexities associated with a global economy, and the
unsupervised power of financial entities to do harm to themselves and
others, in a sense it doesn't really matter whether it's McCain or Obama in
the Oval Office. Both would have to concern themselves with righting the
ship of state and the financial institutions that keep it stable and
functioning. Doing so requires government oversight and regulation of the
giant corporate and financial behemoths. In short, America will become, to a
greater or lesser degree -- with enough greed-loopholes built into the new
system to satisfy the Wall Street elites -- a distinctly American variant of
the "social democracies" in Europe.
Even McCain now realizes the necessity for action in this direction; Obama
would be more amenable to the kind of regulatory change that will be
required, and might even borrow other ideas and policies from FDR's Great
Depression/"New Deal" era in the 1930s, such as temporary,
government-sponsored jobs programs that would quickly pump money back into
the economy from the bottom up.
What's taking place right before our eyes is a seismic shift of tectonic
economic plates in America, with all sorts of transformative implications to
society, the economy, the political parties themselves. We are in for mighty
interesting times in the decades ahead.
THE ATTACK ON SYRIA
These times have become all the more interesting because, as I write this,
the CheneyBush Administration has attacked yet another country: It sent four
helicopters, two of them full of special forces commandoes -- that is to
say, U.S. troops on the ground -- to shoot up a construction sight in Syria
a few miles from the Iraq border, killing eight. The action is less
surprising than the timing, a week before a presidential election.
I think one has to interpret the action in light of that timing as possibly
a way to change the headlines and focus as McCain's chances grow slimmer, a
way to highlight the "national security" issue that supposedly helps McCain,
a way to make sure a President Obama would be locked into even more
foreign-policy messes. Maybe all three at once. No doubt, more will be
revealed in the coming days. These guys are desperate and will try
**Hundreds of thousands, maybe several million, Democratic-leaning voters
have been and are being purged from voting rolls; Bush has ordered the DoJ
to start a "voter-fraud" investigation in Ohio, even in the face of a
Supreme Court ruling ordering regular voting protocols (rather than
provisional ballots) to proceed for the 200,000 citizens involved; there are
numerous cases of "vote-flipping" in various states on touch-screen voting
machines; there are all kinds of voter-intimidation tactics being rolled out
in various states, including attempts to keep college students from voting;
and one can anticipate what happened in 2004, when just a few days before
the voting, the Rove forces launched a massive "robocall" operation around
the country supposedly coming from Dem campaigns, re-calling again and again
at all hours of the day and night, in order to annoy and anger voters enough
that they might decide not to vote Democratic. "Grand Theft Robo."
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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