Alabama Congressman Richard Shelby

Alabama Congressman Richard Shelby

They won’t be able to just admit they were wrong.

They won’t be able to admit that took the idea of a self-regulating free market on faith. Or that a misplaced faith in their intellectual powers was all they ever had. They won’t be able to admit that reality is more complex than their simple, moralistic ideologies can handle. And yet it looks like the Freemarket Fundamentalists might actually score some political points from the financial crisis.

Who is responsible for the credit crisis that is ripping through American and foreign financial markets like a spasms through an epileptic? It’s like asking who is responsible for the torture at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib. If you’re still one of the faithful, it was all the work of a few bad apples and not a massive systemic failure that is bound to happen cyclicly until the end of time — or until real reforms are implemented. But conservatives don’t believe in reform. They believe in human nature. They believe the eschaton is coming. They know Evil will be with us until it’s final, apocalyptic showdown with Good.

In the meantime, Democrats only got about 55% of their due political realigment out of this once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity.

At this point the Bush administration doesn’t care what bridges it has to burn as long as it gets out of town before the world collapses but after Bush has issued pardons for everyone in his administration — including himself. They sent Paulson to the Hill to beg the Democrats to get back into the FDR groove, which means spending massive amounts of money to buy us out of a depression. The Dems were up for it, and the sooner the better. If the Democrat congress could do something — anything — to look like they’re not a bunch of feckless parasites, no matter what the cost, they’ll do it. In this case that meant handing the keys to the cheese shop to a giant rat. What’s more, the Dems wanted it done yesterday. They figured it would make the Repubs look flat-footed and out of touch with “Main Street”.

How wrong they were! Though McCain flubbed his opportunity to look like a leader (sitting silently at an emergency meeting you called is the antithesis of leadership), John Boehner and Richard Shelby accomplished two major wins for their side: First, they “stood up to Big Government” by bucking their Republican masters, and second they actually accomplished something useful for America — they showed the President that the Congress can occasionally assert itself. The first victory was in name only. Bush is unpopular even with his core constituency. It seems they finally noticed that for him and Cheney “conservative” means authoritarian. And it’s incredibly hypocritical to kick up a libertarian fuss after being the enablers of eight years of unchecked executive power. But through incredible and undeserved good luck they pulled off a rebranding, and in the eyes of their supporters have recaptured the moral high ground.

The second acheivement is more depressing to progressives, because it highlights exactly how worthless our putatively progressive politicians in Congress are. Leave it to a gun-toting, free-market fundamentalist conservative to defend us from robber barons like Henry Paulson. The Democrats like to pretend they are the people’s party, but they haven’t been the people’s party since the 70s. They are just as implicated in the degregulation debacle as the radical conservatives. Not one of them stood up to the madness since Reagan was elected. And because they are so used to operating without priciples or spine they didn’t know how to react when the Presidant’s man proposed the most sweeping emasculation of legislative authority since the second Iraq War.

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