Friday, September 24, 2010

Let's Do Another One Just Like the Other One

There are a lot of things I've been meaning to say about the upcoming midterm elections, especially now that the Republicans have announced their Pledge to America, but this evening my right-wing acquaintance posted a link on Facebook to Peggy Noonan's latest exercise in glossolalia at the Wall Street Journal. His comment: "This rings true." Of course you all know that the Opinion page of the WSJ has always been a fantasy world, but this header really did wonders for my mood:

If you thought the 1994 election was historic, just wait till this year.

If I believed in omens I'd be diving for the storm shelter. The 1994 election was not historic. The Republicans did hand a humiliating loss to the Democrats, but it was an off-year election and turnout was low, as such elections usually are. True, Bill Clinton had, like Barack Obama now, collaborated shamefully with the Republicans, especially on NAFTA, disillusioning his base and keeping Democrats away from the polls in droves; there is that similarity to our depressing present. In 1994 the Republicans put out something they called the Contract with America, which few voters had heard of, let alone accepted as a political manifesto, and which had nothing much to do with their victories at the polls. And what happened?

Why, the Republicans tried to shut down the Federal Government at the end of 1995 by demanding budget cuts in various social programs, which Clinton refused to accept. Robert Reich writes at TPM Cafe,
I was there November 14, 1995 when Newt Gingrich pulled the plug on the federal government the first time. It proved to be the stupidest political move in recent history. Not only did it help Bill Clinton win reelection but it was a boon to almost all other Democrats in 1996 (Gingrich's photo was widely used in negative ads), and the move damaged Republicans for years.
So, Peggy Noonan (a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, for those who've forgotten) and numerous other right-wing wackos want a replay of the mid-1990s, in which the Republicans had their heads handed back to them on a platter: their attempt to gut social programs failed spectacularly, the President they hated won re-election handily and continued to push through various Republican programs, like "welfare reform," while nursing numerous economic bubbles that made the rich even richer while just barely improving the economy for the rest of us. The Republicans also failed to impeach Clinton on trumped-up charges, and sexually tinged scandals toppled several Republican leaders, including Gingrich himself. They had to steal the 2000 election to regain power.

There's certainly no love lost between me and the Democrats, but if this is what the Republicans want for the 2010s, I'd be the last person to deny it to them. Some of the Republican leadership are denying that they have anything like a government shutdown in mind, which in politics is a virtual confirmation that it's exactly what they have in mind. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) told The Kudlow Report, "It's absurd. And I think this is just the left trying — you know, the media trying to create an issue that doesn't exist." Absurdity, of course, is what the Republicans and the Democrats have been giving us for a long time now. "But understand, if we continue to run up all this deficit and debt, the shutdown will come because we'll basically be bankrupting the country," Gregg said in an apparent attempt to sound reassuring. "That will cause the shutdown."

Meanwhile, the Democrats are doing their best to help the Republicans in this difficult campaign, most recently by postponing the vote on the extension of Bush's tax cuts until after the elections, which spares both sides the painful necessity of going on record about what they stand for.

Oh, and one other thing: if the Republicans were able to be "obstructionist" with just 40 votes in the Senate, one would think that even if the Democrats lose 20 seats this November and the tables are turned, the Democrats could then obstruct any Republican efforts to do bad things, threatening filibusters at every turn, making outrageous left-wing demands to undercut the Republicans programs, and so on -- especially with a Democratic President wielding a veto to back them up. But no, looking at the Dems' recent record, one wouldn't think that at all, would one? They're the collaboration party, and they'll just surrender absolutely.

Two self-destructive parties on a collision course. I don't know whether to cry or laugh.