Monday, March 23, 2009

History Repeats Itself

Over 160 years ago, during the administration of John Tyler, the Whig party had a major problem with the official Bank of the United States. (Yes, there was an official one back then.) So when it came time to renew the official charter, the Whigs in congress completely rewrote it to fit their own ends. They figured that since President Tyler was one of them, he'd sign it.

He didn't sign it, he vetoed it. The new charter would leave the bank a bad investment for anyone who owned stock in it, which would kind of doom it to failure. Having the bank that the government kept its own money in fail would be bad. He also thought it wasn't distributed enough, and therefore excessively risky. He asked congress to write a charter that was more business-acceptable.

So the Whigs in Congress started again, starting over with a copy of the old expired charter, changing it until it fit their needs, and told the president that he needed to sign it.

He didn't sign it. Same problem.

"AHA!" yelled the Whigs towards the press and therefore directed to the public at large. "You see, he's CONSPIRING AGAINST US! He's trying to ruin the bank! He's trying to bankrupt the country!"

Over the next few weeks, it became apparent that the public did not give three hoots about this, (or even two,) and were increasingly angry with the Whigs for their continued bickering over minor crap while the bank teetered over the edge of annihilation. And lo, over the next 40 years, the Whigs diminished, being totally irrelevant by 1850, and totally gone by 1856.

In 2008, the Republican candidate lost not only the presidential election, but most of the congressional elections. I have meanwhile witnessed Republican panics about everything from taxes to immigration. Mostly taxes. Many of them seem confused about the loss of the election, and are sure the Democrats did something to cheat.

And the public, so far as I've seen, wants the economic crisis to be over and doesn't give two hoots about taxes until it is over. That "He's going to raise your taxes!" didn't fly during the election seems to have deeply confused the Republicans. I think this tax-obsession of theirs is endangering their continuation as a party, since they can't seem to make another plan when that one doesn't work.

In the event that they go down, I predict another pro-business party will take their place. It will also favor low taxes, but will be willing to raise them to win the election and pay for the election promises. (And cut them later, when no one's looking.) After all, the people who voted for Whigs didn't go away in 1856. The new party will have none of Norquist's quasi-libertarian ideas and be all for things that promote the success of multinational corporations.

Why does that scare me a bit?

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