If the unremitting drumbeat from the punditry that there is a Republican tsunami on the way in November should prove true, what will happen after November? Steven Pearlstein, in his column in The Washington Post for Wednesday, 29 September 2010, gave some thought to the appearance of the political landscape if the Chamber of Commerce and Big Business gets its money’s worth, and succeeds in turning Congress Republican red. His short answer to the CEO’s devout hope is: “Be careful what you wish for.”
Business imagines that with Republicans in control of the House and maybe even the Senate, the climate will become very pro-business, that business will be “setting the agenda, rolling back the socialist tide and forcing an anti-business administration into a humiliating retreat.” Not so fast, folks. In Pearlstein’s judgment:
“In reality, what you’ll get is political paralysis for the next two years, and quite possibly longer than that”
because Senator Jim DeMint (R, SC) will be riding high as “the new Republican kingpin and enforcer,” and, in an interview in Bloomberg Businessweek, he promised that “his goal for the next Senate is ‘complete gridlock.'” Without doubt, the eager right-wing newbies arriving on the crest of the tsunami will follow DeMint’s orders gleefully. DeMint forsees no compromises, and will accept no “watered down Republican philosophy.” This will be war, and it’s once again “my way or the highway.” In other words, ideology over governance.
Pearlstein has some good news on the good-for-business side: Business, will not have to worry about tax increases, or climate-change legislation, or pro-labor legislation like card check. On the other hand, says Pearlstein, there will be no tax reform, no education reform, no infrastructure investment, nor any new trade treaties. In his estimation, neither the remaining Democrats in Congress nor a veto-wielding President will be inclined to strike any deals on business’ priorities. What if the President tries to do by issuing regulations what Congress under Republicans will not do? If he does try an end run, Republican-controlled committees will respond with hearings, there will be endless lawsuits, and nothing will be resolved until it has wended its way through the courts, likely a years-long process. Therefore, regulatory uncertainties will continue, even if Republicans win in November.
While I myself am not so certain as Pearlstein that Democrats and President Obama will refuse to knuckle under and tamely enable the continued Republican rape of America, I do believe much of what he predicts will come to pass, and we will have a viciously paralyzed government. That, however, is exactly what Senator DeMint wants, and so do every one of those right-wing Tea Bagging newcomers—– some have even said that it would be ideal for “Congress to take a two-year holiday, or longer.” Pearlstein warns the business community:
“Here is the hard political reality. You can’t expect to support and finance political candidates who preach that government is menacing and wasteful, that public employees are incompetent and corrupt, that taxes are always too high and destroy jobs, and then turn around and expect that the government will respond to your demands to hold down the cost of health care, or fund basic research, or provide good schools, effective courts and reliable transportation systems.”
In other words, Big Business will reap what it has sown; the whirlwind they have created will not be under their control. Here again, I am not so sure. The Tea Partyers will, I suspect, be as malleable in Congress as they have proven to be in town halls, psychologically manipulated to continue enabling the use of the shell of our political government for the enrichment of the business oligarchy. It may be a bit more difficult than Big Business expects, but I think it will happen, for two main reasons: the power of money (threaten the recalcitrant by withdrawing campaign funds or other emoluments) and the power of their secular religion, Free Market capitalism.
Mr. Pearlstein makes another valid point, that business leaders should blame themselves as well as the media or the blogosphere for the horrible polarization of our system: “….in order to score modest wins in legislative or regulatory battles, (you) make common cause with those who trample on the truth, poison the political conversation, demonize opponents and undermine respect and support for government. Criticize President Obama—- that’s easy, guys. But is there anyone there at the Business Roundtable with the courage to criticize Jim DeMint?”
The real result of a Republican victory, and the entrenchment of Senator DeMint and his happy band of anti-government radicals will be to devalue and trivialize government, the only institution big enough to rein in the excesses of Big Business. Maybe, Mr. Pearlstein, that is the real reason so much corporate money is pouring into the coffers of the Tea Party radicals; it is not to “score modest wins.” The intent is actually to create what you are warning against—- to “undermine respect and support for government.”