It's that time of year again folks (it's actually even one day early!), so gather 'round for two spine-chilling tales of horror to rattle your bones and shiver your timbers!
In fact, if you read this right now, we will double your fright with a full four nightmares evenly divided, left and right! That's right, I said four frightful tales!
Well, two of them are so short I could probably have tweeted them, I have to admit. Because in the depths of Obamacare website death, it's pretty easy to use that as a springboard to spin terrifying yarns, when you stop and think about it. So we've got two Obamacare-specific tales which are very short indeed, and then two non-Obamacare scenarios to make both Democrats and Republicans run screaming into the night.
So sit back, break into the bags of candy a night early, turn down all the lights and fire up the pumpkins, because we've got the short and long of both Democratic and Republican nightmares for your terrified pleasure. Enjoy!
Oh, and while the two Jack-o-lanterns below were carved this year, we've got one from back in 2009, to use as a generic lead-in to the short Obamacare tales. So here's that one, up front:
The Obamacare exchange website never gets fixed. Obamacare must be delayed for a year, which is exactly what Republicans were wishing for in the shutdown fight. The website is still not working when next year's enrollment period begins on the first of October, and Republicans ride this failure to historic gains in the House, and they triumphantly take the Senate and elect Ted Cruz as their Majority Leader.
Obamacare's website problems are fixed before Thanksgiving. Obamacare works well from this point on, and people love it. The entire Republican election campaign effort built around denouncing Obamacare goes forward anyway, and backfires spectacularly as Democrats retake the House easily, putting Nancy Pelosi back in the speaker's chair.
The Long Democratic Nightmare
Glenn Greenwald is contacted by another secret leaker, and a bombshell is thus explosively dropped.
Greenwald's new article reveals that throughout the entire 2012 election season the National Security Agency was actively tapping the phone calls of the Republican National Committee, Mitt Romney, and most of the Republican leadership of Congress. And they weren't just fishing for "metadata" either, they were providing transcripts of every single call to the White House, who passed them along to the "committee to reelect the president." Within CREEP (as the media can't resist calling it, while they dig out all the other Watergate metaphors known to mankind), these calls were used to refine political strategies and provide the best opposition research that could possibly exist.
When called upon to answer for this at hearings in the House of Representatives, the head of the N.S.A. famously replies: "We did it because we could do it. Congress gave us the power to do pretty much anything that technology allowed, and so we did everything we could possibly think up. This included tapping politicians' lines and passing the information along to be used by the president, in the same grand tradition that J. Edgar Hoover set for collecting political dirt on anyone he wished for a half a century. This is nothing new, people -- this is as American as apple pie."
President Barack Obama initially denies the story, and makes several comments he would later regret, including: "Americans don't have any expectation of privacy on the phone by now anyway," and of course the cringeworthy Nixonian statement: "If the president does it, it's not a crime, right? Trust me, I'm a constitutional scholar."
After Obama's initial denials change into stonewalling the press entirely, Greenwald releases all the leaked data in a stunning series of articles. In a surprising twist, Greenwald's leaker is revealed to be none other than Vice President Joe Biden, which the N.S.A. swiftly confirms by releasing the transcripts of the Biden-Greenwald phone conversations.
Impeachment proceedings immediately begin in the House. But in a surprise twist, both Obama and Biden are impeached. Obama for allowing the eavesdropping to happen and Biden for going along with it and later leaking government secrets.
Democrats begin breaking ranks in droves, and by summer articles of impeachment handily pass the House with a 313-121 margin. The Senate cancels its August recess, and schedules the trial to go on for months. The final vote is penciled in for late October, mere days before the midterm elections.
President Obama, seeing the writing on the wall, immediately resigns office. His farewell speech is notable for the admission "maybe just because you can listen in to everyone's phone calls doesn't necessarily mean you should listen in to everyone's phone calls."
President Biden, constitutionally next in line, is sworn in. A last-minute problem where no judge will perform the ceremony (out of sheer disgust) is averted as the head dogcatcher in Delaware magnanimously offers to be the official to administer the oath of office.
While the Senate drops the trial against Barack Obama, the Biden trial continues. Biden's defense is "Hey, eventually I told everyone about this, and we wouldn't even be here if I hadn't leaked that all that stuff." The Senate is not impressed with this line of reasoning, and overwhelmingly votes to remove Biden from office on October 31.
Since Biden couldn't get a vice presidential nominee approved by the Senate in the midst of his trial, John Boehner is sworn in as President of the United States on Hallowe'en night. Eric Cantor takes over as Speaker of the House, and vows to lead "the Tea-Partiest House you can even imagine." He immediately announces that the "Hastert Rule" will no longer be in force, to be replaced by the "Cantor Rule" -- no legislation will ever be brought up for a vote unless a majority of the Tea Partiers agree with it. Everyone takes him very seriously, as he makes this announcement on the steps of the Capitol while busily sacrificing a goat, disemboweling the corpse, reading the entrails, and pronouncing it a good omen.
In the following week's election, Republicans take 113 seats in the House, and grab 23 seats in the Senate, gaining them not just control of all of Congress, but veto-proof majorities in both houses.
Obamacare isn't mentioned once during the campaign. It is completely forgotten, in fact, by Republicans and Democrats alike.
Glenn Greenwald receives the Pulitzer Prize.
The Long Republican Nightmare
When it becomes apparent, in late January or so, that Obamacare is going to be nowhere near as bad as Republicans have been steadily predicting, and when the public signs up in numbers far in excess of all predictions, the party is left without a major issue for the 2014 campaign season. Having planned their entire election strategy around Obamacare, they are suddenly left to bicker among themselves over which way to turn.
This quickly turns ugly. The Tea Partiers scream the loudest (as usual), and John Boehner is forced into creating a special committee to investigate "un-conservative activities" in the House to meet the Tea Partiers' demands. Boehner sheepishly explains his action by stating: "Well, we obviously weren't going to get anything at all done this year anyway, so we might as well hold a bunch of meaningless hearings." The special ad-hoc committee is named the "People Undermining Republicans Everywhere Committee," and while at first the press uses the "PURE Committee" name they later settle on the "Purge Committee" as being more appropriate.
The members named to this committee are all Tea Partiers of the most uncompromising stripe (Democrats refuse to participate at all, naturally, and moderate Republicans are just plain terrified of the concept to begin with). They immediately open investigations into every Republican in Congress who has ever voted with the Democrats on anything -- even mundane things like Mother's Day proclamations and naming post offices.
Because this includes just about all Republicans who have served for longer than back to the 2010 election, the committee faces a mountain of investigations. In response, the committee announces that the "Washington ways" of doing things are part of the problem, and they shock the rest of Congress by declaring that they will be holding hearings for a full 40 hours a week. An enterprising young reporter digs a quote out from the official congressional historian that "it'll be the first full work weeks seen in the Capitol since World War II."
Republican after Republican is put under the bright lights. While initially the questioning is quite specific and detailed, it soon becomes apparent that even with full work weeks the scope of the investigations is just too great for such niceties. They quickly come up with a shortened form of questioning, which centers on the key questions: "Are you now or have you ever been a liberal?" and "Have you ever voted with the Democrats?" Answering "yes" to either question is enough to establish guilt, as the committee sees it. This greatly speeds up the pace of the investigations, which (at their height) dispose of dozens of Republican politicians each and every day.
When John McCain appears before the committee, he tries to invoke a former era by asking the committee chair: "Have you no shame, Sir?" But this line falls flat when he is immediately answered with: "No. No, I do not. Not one iota of shame for the higher calling of bringing purity to the Republican Party. It is you, Sir, who should be ashamed of yourself."
Behind the scenes, the Wall Street financiers who actually fund the Republican Party are horrified beyond belief. They desperately try to pump money into moderate Republican candidates in the fast-approaching primaries, but this merely engenders a violent backlash among the Tea Partiers. Accepting such money is deemed not "Tea Partiyish." The committee announces that it is considering investigating all Republican donors when they're done with all the impure Republican politicians, which terrifies even the Wall Street bigwigs into retreat.
As a result, moderate Republican candidates are not merely left with no money, but they are actively demonized for the money they had already taken, by both the purge committee and in Tea Party ads in their districts.
Rather than face such demonization, the mainstream Republicans begin announcing they will not, in fact, be running for reelection. "This is nothing short of a bloodbath, and I refuse to participate in it," says one memorable 35-year Republican House veteran, announcing his impending retirement from politics. All told, 77 House Republicans and 13 Senate Republicans announce they're retiring. Tea Party candidates leap into these wide-open races with glee. When the primary dust settles, hardline Tea Party candidates sweep 93 percent of currently-Republican districts.
The midterm general election campaign that follows goes down in history as being the "nastiest, foulest, muddiest, most downright disgusting display" in all of American election history. More than fifty Tea Party candidates run solely on "Obama is the Anti-Christ" platforms, as just one tiny example of how bad things get.
The public, absolutely horrified, elects Democrats in what will later be called the "Anti-Tea-Party Tsunami" election. The gains are historic for the Democratic Party, and they not only easily take the House back but they elect eight new Senate members, giving them a comfortable filibuster-proof majority there as well.
The Republicans who survive this ballot-box slaughter are the purest of the pure, of course, but seeing as they now have no power whatsoever, they quickly fall to more and more vicious infighting.
The Republican Party disappears from the face of American politics, and one-party Democratic rule continues for the next twenty years, in a "Second Era Of Good Feelings." Hillary Clinton runs virtually unopposed in 2016 (the write-in campaigns of Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann fail spectacularly, since they split the remaining Tea Party vote), and Clinton wins in a landslide of epic proportions, capturing every single state in the only unanimous Electoral College vote since George Washington.
During it all, nobody mentions Obamacare once.
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