Republicans In Disarray
It's worth understanding that the failure of the bailout package in the House was a failure of leadership, as I said last night. Nobody has confidence in the political system, and the political class closest to the people revolted. There's no trust and no belief, and so a popular uprising is the result. There will be incumbents falling that you never expected in November, if challengers figure out how to channel that anger. While the support of the bill was mixed, the opposition was quite vocal and almost nobody believed that regular people would get anything out of it.
But putting aside whether or not you wanted the bill to pass, this failure is more pronounced on the Republican side. The facts are that 2/3 of their caucus voted against the plan, after the leadership assured everyone that they would get half their side. Their leadership scrambled and tried to blame it on a partisan speech given by Nancy Pelosi, which their own membership later denied.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) threw cold water on a key rationale House Republican leaders have been employing this afternoon to explain why they couldn't deliver more GOP votes for the Wall Street bailout package.
At a Monday afternoon press conference, GOP leaders argued that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cost the measure a dozen Republican votes by delivering an overly partisan floor speech in support of it.
But Bachmann, speaking at a Republican Study Committee press conference, told reporters, "I want to assure you that was not the case. We are not babies who suck our thumbs. We have very principled reasons for voting no."
Other conservatives said the same thing, and by the end of the day, even the leadership was backing away from this alibi.
The larger point is that nobody's in charge of the Republican Party anymore. Their President and their current standard-bearer urged a yes vote and they couldn't get it. And the "elder statesman" of the conservative base, Newt Gingrich, apparently stabbed leadership in the back:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was working aggressively behind the scenes to defeat the Wall Street rescue plan minutes before he himself released a public statement in support of the package, NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported on Tuesday.
Gingrich was whipping up votes for the opposition, Mitchell said, apparently without the knowledge of the current GOP leader, John Boehner, who was responsible for recruiting enough support from his caucus to help ensure the bill's passage. Ultimately, the GOP was only able to rally roughly a third of its members.
"Newt Gingrich," she said on MSNBC, "I am told reliably by leading Republicans who are close to him, he was whipping against this up until the last minute, when he issued that face-saving statement. Newt Gingrich was telling people in the strongest possible language that this was a terrible deal, not only that it was a terrible deal, it was a disaster, it was the end of democracy as we know, it was socialism -- and then at the last minute [he] comes out with a statement when the vote is already in place."
Indeed, as Mitchell noted, shortly before the bill's failure, Gingrich "reluctantly" came out in favor of its passage: "Therefore, while I am discouraged at the final collapse of the Bush Administration, and frustrated by the Democrats' passion for the taxpayer's money, I would reluctantly and sadly vote for the bailout were I still in office."
Wow. That's just chaos. A lot of time we Democrats think that the GOP strategist class is a collection of evil geniuses, plotting away and cleverly setting up their opponents over and over. Actually, they might just be jockeying for power and headed toward a purifying self-destruction, without acting solely with the Democrats in mind. I think you're going to see new leadership elections on the Republican side after the elections, as more moderates retire or lose their races, and the conservative wackjobs consolidate their power with a smaller base. Expect more backstabbing and treachery between now and November. This is the picture of a political party in crisis.