It appears rather strange that many people and commentators are fascinated by the implosion of the Republican Party as if it were necessary for a 2-party system or as a check on the power of unbridled Democratic control. If Republicans are now left with these two arguments, they are pretty well finished as a political party.
Viewing recent attempts at reforming the financial and banking sectors, and the entire approach to the bank bailouts, a good portion of the Democratic Party now joins the remaining Republicans in opposition to natural democratic and populist ideas, some of which have been presented by President Obama. The mortgage modification option for bankruptcy court was defeated, and the credit card reforms are so weak as to be laughable along with their 1-year delay in effectiveness – and these were the work of a Congress essentially in democratic control. Meaningful tax reform, new carbon taxes, and even tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, all face strong Democratic opposition in Congress.
There is a good reason why there is such a huge public approval difference between President Obama and Congress. Most people see a nationally-elected leader who came from very humble social and economic means to epitomize the best we see in ourselves. For years now, the public has viewed the majority of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress as essentially corrupt representatives of the wealthiest business and private interests, and only willing to pursue laws and policies that benefit their largest campaign contributors. Since Washington DC appears to continue business as usual regardless of which party controls Congress, most people realize that our Federal Government at the Legislative Level is seriously unrepresentative of the vast majority of Americans who are not wealthy and who do not control large corporations and provide big campaign contributions.
The U.S. is essentially an oligarchy, a plutocracy, or both. The few with the most money effectively control the political and economic life of this country. After the financial and banking sectors engineered a collapse of the economic system through their own greed and stupidity, they used their overwhelming political influence to have public funds bail out private failures. This was trickle-up socialism to match trickle-down capitalism.
The Republican Party went off the deep end during the past 8 years when it was the majority in Congress and held the Presidency without any checks and balances by Democrats. It let the religious right control much of its social and political agendas, and it long ago sold its economic soul to large wealthy corporations, banks and individuals. Its deregulation frenzy, begun in the last half of the Clinton Administration, ultimately led to the massive financial and economic collapse of 2008. The majority of Americans have pretty well figured out that the Republican Party is completely incompetent at running any government – regardless of its size – for the benefit of anyone but themselves and their wealthy campaign donors.
There is a rabid Republican base of about 40% of the electorate, and about 20% of the population at large that still identify with the party. For years it has been very effective at excluding Blacks, Hispanics, Young People, Gays, Moderates (social, religious and economic) and about everyone else outside their angry conservative old white men’s club. The GOP will probably join the Whig party in the dustbin of dead political parties. Irreversible demographics and changing voter alliances will seal that fate of the Party. Only an asteroid collision with our planet might change that dead-end trajectory for the Republican Party.
Now the two remaining groups in the Republican Party must decide where to go next. The conservative evangelical Christians must decide what they believe in politically, economically, socially and even religiously. They are in the last stages of completely taking over the GOP from their only solid bases in the South and Great Plains. They may keep “God’s Only Party” going for a few more election cycles but they no longer represent the majority of the religious and non-religious voters in this country on social, political or economic policies.
Even the U.S. leadership of the Roman Catholic Church cannot get a solid majority of its own flock to support its positions on abortion, contraceptives, or gay marriage. The growing number of Americans who are unaffiliated with all organized religious groups coupled with those who have just spiritual or no religious beliefs, will render such hot-button issues less important and divisive in the future, further relegating the need for a Republican Party. The GOP cannot build a party on demonizing evolution and promoting creationism either.
The wealthy business interests of the GOP (the other half of the party) have been steadily moving to the Democratic Party ever since the election of President Clinton. Their contributions to Democratic candidates in the last 2 election cycles have tilted remarkably towards Democrats. By looking at what is going on in Congress this year, it appears they have bought enough Democrats to ensure they control a good part of the American political and economic agenda. The U.S. will continue to have 2 parties and 2 warring camps on most every issue facing the country. They will simply be played out within the Democratic Party in fairly opaque and undulating alliances that will fluctuate on an issue-by-issue basis.
For the economic conservatives and the supporters of big business against consumers, there is plenty of representation within the current Democratic Party. As campaign financing stands now and for the foreseeable future, this will permit the wealthiest 5% Americans to dictate much of the political and economic policies for the entire country. There will be little need for an opposition party from the Conservative Right. Instead, we might see the need for an opposition from the Liberal Left sometime in the future.
President Obama decided he could pick just so many fights in Washington. Over the prior two administrations (Clinton & Bush) both parties in Congress have essentially been bought by the financial and banking sectors – and they depend upon them for campaign financing.
The new administration decided not to go to war with the U.S. financial/banking systems and risk losing other major parts of its agenda. The President has decided to play along with his financial and economic advisers and see how this turns out. If the economy continues to stagnate with more unemployment and foreclosures, banks will fail again and then a new strategy can be pursued. He wisely understands that life is just too short, there are too many other big domestic and international issues, and he doesn’t control enough members of Congress, to impose an alternate resolution to the current financial crisis.
Both the President and the U.S. public probably realize that we must look elsewhere for an economic recovery because the financial sector will not help. It has proven beyond a doubt that it only looks after its own, sucks up public bailout money, and gives nothing in return, except campaign contributions to members of Congress to vote down meaningful reforms and regulations.
I have probably written a number of commentaries and guest voices over the past 3 months on my disappointment with the bank bailouts and financial reforms pursued by the Obama Administration. Only after some reflection did I come to realize that this is the best we can expect considering the outright political and campaign control the financial and banking sectors have over Congress.
Over the next 2 to 8 years, there will be enough contrarian views forcefully represented by various Democrats to slow down, modify or derail many social, political and economic proposals from the Obama Administration designed to benefit the majority of Americans. There will be plenty of internal battles between Democrats in Congress with President Obama that the U.S. public might not even notice Republicans are still there. The GOP will just be an irrelevant minority mindlessly chanting silly libertarian cries of “smaller government, lower taxes,” and a solid “no” on every proposal.
If the Democratic Congress continues to legislate on behalf of the wealthiest Americans as did its predecessor Republican Congress, and if Americans do not see meaningful progress towards universal healthcare; better schools and more good jobs; new energy and transportation infrastructure investments; greater environmental protection; fairer taxes and lower long-term budget deficits; and strong regulations on large financial institutions, they will not turn back to Republicans for answers. Another political force will emerge to address those concerns, which is not even part of the current political structure in this country.
5/5/09 – by Marc Pascal in Phoenix, AZ.