I am now convinced President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, other key leaders in the Democratic Party and the new administration realize they have no viable solutions to the economic crisis, know their own plans are going to exacerbate the problems and have concluded the only hope of maintaining absolute power beyond 2010 will depend on their ability to demonize their opponents and the Bush administration.
So much for hope and change.
If I had any doubts about their own perceptions, they were dispelled over the weekend when Democrat leaders went into overdrive lowering expectations – expectations that had been raised so high during the 2008 election.
- Biden said: "There's been no good news, and there's no good news on the immediate horizon."
- Lawrence Summers, head of the president's National Economic Council, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Americans will need to be patient: "These problems weren't made in a day or a week or a month or even a year, and they're not going to get solved that fast. The next few months are, no question, going to be very, very difficult and it may be longer than that."
- Pelosi told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" that "some increased investment" may be necessary and that spending the money would likely be tied to more government involvement in the banking sector: "Whatever you want to call it, if we are going to put money into the banks, we certainly want equity for the American people. In other words, if we are strengthening them, then the American people should get some of the upside of that strengthening. Some people call that nationalization … I'm not talking about total ownership."
The only ideas being put forward by the Democrats are the very ideas that created the crisis in the first place – more government intrusion into the economy, more bailouts of failed financial and industrial institutions, more command-and-control policies from Washington, more picking of winners and losers among businesses and, of course, more spending and more debt.
All of this is doomed to failure, and the Democrats know it.
Their only hope is to buy enough time for themselves until the economy can turn around on its own in cyclical fashion. But they clearly recognize that is not going to happen in the next two years – and probably not in four.
Imagine how horrifying that realization is to them – not just because of what it portends for America between now and 2012, but, more importantly, what it means to the political fortunes of a party that has just succeeded in getting a monopoly grip on power it has not experienced in 14 years.
That leaves only four options for the Democrats:
- lowering the expectations they raised so high in 2006 and 2008;
- blaming Republicans for everything for the next four years;
- seducing and compromising Republicans to join them in their plans;
- attempting to criminalize past policy decisions by Republicans through an endless series of partisan investigations and demonizations;
We have already seen the Democrats tip their hands on the first two options. As they get more desperate and the clock ticks closer to the next mid-term election cycle in 2010, I predict we will see them work overtime on the last two.
Will it work?
The Democrats have shown they have a powerful ally in playing the blame game – the Big Media. Without the critical support of a hopelessly biased press, they would have had no chance of winning the White House in 2008 and the Congress in 2006.
But even the media will not be able to save the Democrats from big political losses in the next four years if the Republican Party refuses to be seduced and compromised.
What do I mean?
All the Republicans have to do to ensure victory over the next four years is to refuse to vote for more bailouts, refuse to vote for more debt and more wealth redistribution, refuse to vote for more government intrusion into the economy. If they can develop the intestinal fortitude to stand tough and not compromise, Republicans will likely win back control of the Congress in two years.
But that, of course, is a big "if."
Republicans don't exactly have clean hands when it comes to the current economic mess. They are known for compromising. They are known for "reaching across the aisle and finding bipartisan solutions." They are known for voting for rescue plans that are extra-constitutional and counterproductive.
Can they learn to restrain themselves?
I don't know.
The temptations will be great. Some of them are likely to be peeled off. Many of them have no character and even less intellectual vision.
But, interestingly, the Republicans hold far more power than anyone realizes – at least when it comes to the length and severity of the economic crisis.
One thing is clear: It's not going to be solved by Democrats. Whether Republicans will give themselves another chance to bring economic recovery to this country in two years or four years really depends on how they respond to the hapless initiatives of their opponents.