President Obama was elected to change Washington. When you dance with the devil, the devil don't change.
In fact, the devil is about to get worse than it has been in living memory. Even through the upheavals of the sixties and the Cold War, American government could be counted on to deliver some few bipartisan solutions, the good of the country and its people being a guiding principle to enough on both sides to get some things done. At least the corporate puppet masters were able to grasp that the good of the country was identical to theirs. Now that's gone, the increasing bulk of their investments being overseas. American politics has always been ugly, but if the Republicans take control of the House on Tuesday it will be ghastly.
The government of the United States of America will shut down, near literally this time. Major parts if not the whole government will stop running instead of just the legislative process, as the House Republican majority curtails funding for programs and uses the purse in an attempt to extort the President into allowing them to repeal or gut programs like Medicare and Social Security.
As Paul Krugman pointed out Friday, the intent of the new Republican House, abetted by the stronger Republican numbers in the Senate, is to make Obama a one term President. That is their priority. The business of government be damned if it will help re-elect a Democrat, any Democrat. Sadly, anything that makes life less bad for the public will help the Democrats. You get the picture.
The American people were held hostage, through the filibuster, by the Republicans in the Senate for two years already, but then the victims were just the newly unemployed of the Republican Great Recession, those with little to no job security and a few million underwater homeowners. This time, with control of the House, Republicans will swing for the fences, having the Tea Party watching their every move and Mitch McConnell orchestrating a political strategy aimed at pushing through their perennial agenda by extorting the responsible in government to capitulate through making life hell for the public. It's a very, very disturbing precedent in strategy formulated by the most callous GOP since the Gilded Age.
That strategy was used by the Republicans in 1994 and failed. This time, as Krugman points out, there is more at stake. With economy in the toilet, and no way out that anyone can name except further stimulus spending, and the Tea Party zealotry and money having taken over the GOP, the Republican formula for political success might well be a complete disaster for the nation. It appears the GOP is perfectly willing to exploit the potential and the reality of disaster for political gain.
With a complicit mass media they may succeed for a while, as they have these last two years. The political needle they must thread is narrow though, between the misery of the people and being able to blame it on Democrats ad infinitum. The half life of blame, which appears to have already run out on Bush, is strictly a function of a complicit mass media's credibility and at some point will be overleveraged. Credibility is like a line of credit, overdraw too often and it is closed.
At best, the economy might stumble along until this political showdown is resolved, one or the other party having been crushed. At worst, Republicans will have their way with the President and he will capitulate to the Republican agenda. Capitulation would be a perfect storm of socioeconomic disaster. The Republicans, you see, understand their base and how to inflame enough of the middle to get elected, but they don't understand economics or how to govern.
The Republican agenda is perennial, implacable and remorseless. They will push to eliminate all of the New Deal social safety nets. They will also attempt to undo the civic social legislation so hard won by minorities and women. They will gut or eliminate major government health, safety and financial regulatory programs. They object to anything that government does other than defense, or that is not corporate welfare (Listing the things they want to change or eliminate takes several pages. I know, I tried and gave up, not wanting to omit anyone's pet peeve).
They will attempt structural change to government finance: Abolish the Income Tax and replace it with a flat tax or a regressive national sales tax. They'll try to amend the Constitution to prohibit deficit spending, something that is breaking down state governments everywhere right now. At the very least they will, right out of the gate, attempt to reauthorize the Bush tax cuts at a time when a vast majority of the public thinks that to be a bad idea.
We are in for the most godawful political showdown any living person has ever seen at a time when we really and truly do not need to be doing that. We should be doing everything possible to get the country's economy back on its feet before entertaining a grand conservative putsch for total scorched earth control of the nation. One would think the GOP would be happier with an improving economy too, but priorities have shifted. The older Grand Old Party would have seen the sense in winning hearts and minds to their cause instead of holding the populous at the point of a political gun. Guns, especially political ones, can backfire.
So, if the Republicans take the house, the stage is set for things to get so miserable that one or the other party is to be destroyed. That is the game in which Mitch McConnell and the Tea Party bumper sticker patriots are about to engage. It is all or nothing played out at the expense of a public that is largely indifferent in their lack of understanding of what is truly at issue. The public assumes that the parties are the same and couldn't be more wrong. At the end of this process however, the public will no longer be indifferent. It is the highest stakes political game that has been played in our lifetimes, winner take all.
On the side of the Democrats there is a clear moral and logical defense for not giving in to the impending Republican extortion. That defense is that if Democrats concede or not, the public will still suffer short term. But if they don't concede to the Republican agenda, there is strong probability that the GOP will destroy itself, and the legislative progress of the last 150 years will survive. Giving in to the GOP will lock in the misery and lock out any recourse to change it. Resisting the GOP will make the misery go away when the GOP self destructs. But it may take a few more election cycles and a Democratic party with the guts of FDR.
It is my sincerest hope that this article will be laughably moot by next Wednesday. If it's not, buckle up, and tight.