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Monday, September 29, 2008

requiem for the Rockefellers

When I was a kid, the Republican Party stood for two things: greed and Cold War hawkishness. That is no longer the case, and the rejection of the financial bailout plan by House Republicans today confirms it.

Ronald Reagan came to power in 1980 by luring religious and racist conservatives into supporting deregulation and tax policies that benefitted the rich. Logically, the Republican coalition never made any sense. Entrepreneurs and people in business depend on ambition, ideas, innovation, science, technology, and so on. They tend to value talent, education, and the willingness to overturn tradition when something new and risky dangles the possibility of greater profits before their greedy eyes. Religious conservatives are the opposite. At their worst, they elevate tradition over innovation, fear over science, and the narrow narcissism of 'small-town values' over education and cosmopolitanism. And let's not forget that they profess a religion full of prohibitions against usury. The party leaders who hatched this coalition of opposites were strategic geniuses, but now the party is over.

Mike Huckabee was the sign of things to come. His presidential campaign of earlier this year was exciting because, had he won the Republican nomination, it would have torn the party apart. Here was a conservative, small-state Republican who appeared ready to follow Jesus's populist gesture of overturning the money-lenders' table. His candidacy represented an emergency to the Bush Republicans and the coalition that kept them in power.

The rich-religious Republican coalition finally ended today. Today's 777-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average set a new record, and Wall Street knows who is to blame: the Republicans in the House of Representatives who rejected the Paulson plan because bailing out 'the Wall Street elite' violates their insane ideology.

The Rockefeller Republicans, what was left of them, were already becoming Obama Republicans. Now I wonder if they will even stay in the Republican Party much longer. People in business know that homophobia, fanaticism, anti-science, and anti-elitism are bad for business. Their tolerance for conservative excess has expired.

That the Republican Party will soon be little more than a regional cabal of conservative anti-elitist fanatics is good for the Democrats but bad for the country. Today, September 29, 2008, we are all in the clutches of the most militantly ignorant political faction that Republican machinations have spawned: men and women of zeal who know nothing of economics but believe in giving the 'elites' their comeuppance. These maniacs will bring the republic and the national economy crashing down in order to teach the rest of us a lesson in responsibility and the magic of the market.

During the past seven years of misrule by Bush and Cheney, I have had frequent recourse to these famous lines from Yeats's poem 'The Second Coming':
'The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.'
Little did I know that the worst was yet to come. Whatever their misgivings about the Paulson bailout plan, Democrats have had to make common cause with Bush and Cheney against an even graver threat: the economic suicide that Bush's former shock troops stand poised to visit on all of us. Now we will all reap what the Republican 'geniuses' have sown.

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Anonymous Warren Tuffett said...

Is it your position that the 94 Democrats who voted against the bailout are also "insane"?

7:32 PM, September 29, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

I don't know why ninety-four Democrats voted against it. There are many reasons to object to the terms of the bailout legislation as it has been reported. I suspect the Democrats who voted against it did so out of cowardice because they face tough election contests this year or out of conviction because they are holding out for better terms.

The House Republicans who voted against it, at least the many who have spoken against it on the House floor and in the press, did so out of ideological zeal: they oppose market intervention and believe that the plan will over-regulate banking. They deny that under-regulation caused the current crisis. Many of them insist, perversely, that the crisis was caused by home mortgages extended to black and Latino families.

I have yet to hear any House Democrat repeat this Republican insanity.

10:22 PM, September 29, 2008

Anonymous Pat Robertson said...

Well, we had a good run!

11:51 PM, September 29, 2008

Anonymous Not a Burping Sandinista said...

I applaud your optimism. And I believe your descriptions of the Republican coalition before today and the ideological bent of the religious conservatives are accurate. I take issue, however, with your prognostication. Has today's vote caused considerable consternation among the "greedy" by the "pious"? Certainly. Does it mean the end of the rich-religious partnership? No.

This is simply another bump in the road for the Republican Party. The architects of the original coalition understood what their successors understand now: the gullibility of the "pious." Today's bill fell at the hands of House Republicans because the "greedy," for once, lacked the foresight to do what they have done since 1980, which is couch the debate in terms that the intellectually incurious "pious" will find agreeable. Instead, the "greedy" allowed the media to railroad the issue by focusing on bank collapses and that strange, elite bogeyman called "Wall Street" without really attempting to nudge the debate into the realm of national security, abortion, or small business owners.

Their mistake realized, surely the "greedy" and their political operatives will quietly massage the issue, putting their side of the issue into terms the "pious" can get on board with. The Republican Party will get back on track and will remain a viable national party. After all, Jeff, who leads the megachurches, the ones with tens of thousands of congregants who give their unthinking obedience and considerable local political clout to their pastors?

Greedy men swathed pious raiment.

12:18 AM, September 30, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

I don't think the greedy men in bespoke suits want to put up with the greedy men swathed in pious raiment anymore. That development did not start today; it has been slowly underway at least since Bush took office in 2001.

Business leaders do not tend to be conservative, in the contemporary American sense of the word. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Google duo et al. are a lot more progressive than most American voters. And it's not just new media and self-made types who tend that way. Big corporations like Disney were offering same-sex partner benefits while same-sex activity was still illegal in thirteen states.

Let's cut to the bottom line: social issues aside, Democrats are better for business than Republicans. Democrats support investment in science, education, and various other social goods that produce a twenty-first-century labor force that can compete in a globalized economy. Republicans think the internet is made up of tubes. Ignorance is bad for business. (Dirty industries like coal, petrol, and mercenaries will probably always be Republican-identified.)

As for what you call 'the gullibility of the pious', I don't think they're so gullible anymore. People joined the so-called Reagan revolution because they believed, and now those true believers have taken over the party. Dick Cheney himself spoke to the Republican caucus a week ago and they apparently told him to get lost. I think something far bigger than a failure of message by the party honchos is underway.

1:21 AM, September 30, 2008

Anonymous Not a Burping Sandinista said...

I'm hesitant to accept this transformation from gullibility. If it started in 2001, the "pious" would have repudiated the president in 2004. We'll know more after this election, I suppose. As for Democrats being better for business than Republicans, while I do not quarrel with this characterization in certain respects, you yourself acknowledge the Republican bent of the "dirty" industries. Additionally, the financial sector will continue to be a Grand Ol' Party stronghold for as long as "free market" is mouthed by the rank-and-file, emptily or not.

I would say that old energy plus Wall Street equals a preponderance of "business" in today's terms. (This could change within the next generation.) Accepting my own premise as true, I suggest that "business" recognizes it needs the social conservatives to stay in office at the federal level, and I suspect it will take at least another decade before the greedy decide the partnership is no longer worthwhile.

1:47 AM, September 30, 2008

Anonymous Little Miss All-Day Buffet said...

So the Republican "maniacs" are bringing the "economy crashing down" by not voting for the bill, but the Democrats who didn't vote for it probably had good reasons so that's okay?

7:56 AM, September 30, 2008

Anonymous 42 said...

NBC did an analysis of the voting breakdown. It appears that a great deal of those who voted for the bailout are from districts that are safe & many of those who voted against it are in closed re-elction campaigns. This can be viewed two ways. Either those in close races listened to their constituents or they put themselves ahead of the needs of the country.No contest. Re-election trumps all, every time.

Perhaps it is time for a benevolent dictatorship. I nominate Chris Rock for the position.

10:32 AM, September 30, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

I have to disagree with NABS with regard to how much longer the rich will tolerate being politically saddled by the social conservatives. There is no reason for the rich to stay with the Republicans, particularly when they do better with Democrats in charge.

The Democrats are no Marxists, particularly since Bill Clinton's 'pro-growth' economic policies. In Clinton's cabinet, the lefty academics held posts like Secretary of Labor (Robert Reich) and Secretary of Health and Human Services (Donna Shalala); the Secretary of the Treasury was Robert Rubin of Goldman Sachs.

It's also the case that the more thoroughly globalized markets of today are re-writing American business orthodoxies. Take health insurance for instance. Some American business leaders are now on the side of national health insurance. Why? Because the bizarre American system of employer-provided health insurance is a business cost that their overseas competitors do not face. It would thus make American companies leaner if the government took over health care.

We are in a new era of American politics, and yesterday's alliances and assumptions are being overthrown.

4:00 PM, October 11, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

The answer to Little Miss All-Day Buffet's question is yes. Two different factions can take the same position for opposite reasons. Feminists and al-Qaeda both oppose the government of Saudi Arabia: feminists because it is conservative and misogynistic; al-Qaeda because it is not conservative and misogynistic enough.

The Democrats who opposed the bailout for reasons of principle did so because they wanted more regulation and a larger equity stake for the government in the bailed-out companies. House Republicans walked out of negotiations at one point and voted against it because they wanted less regulation and were willing to let the crisis go unanswered for reasons of ideological dogmatism. Had the Republican opponents joined the Democratic opponents in their demands, together they could have made the legislation better.

4:00 PM, October 11, 2008


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