The Parties Are Over, Redux

The Parties Are Over, Redux

Once upon a time, there was a quote that was attributed to Franklin Roosevelt.  “In politics,” Roosevelt allegedly said, “nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”  We always liked the quote, but, as it turns out, we were wrong for doing so.  You see, the quote, apparently, promoted conspiracy theories – the system is rigged; FDR had it all planned; there is no free will; whatever.  And therefore, it had to be debunked.

We understand why this is so, of course, and we’re sympathetic to those who promote historical accuracy.  Nevertheless, we think it’s important to note that, in politics, nothing happens by accident – no matter what Roosevelt did or did not say.  Everything is connected.  Everything happens for a reason.  And there are no coincidences.

As you may know, the two biggest political stories of the week were: the Republicans’ ongoing electoral impotence, the results of which were more lost elections that should have been won; and the House of Representatives voting, for only the 26th time in history, to censure one of its own, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, an unapologetic supporter of Hamas.

Believe it or not, these two events are directly connected.  They were no mere coincidences.  They both happened for a reason, the same reason, namely the slow-motion collapse of both of the major political parties.

In a way, all of this was predictable.  Indeed, we’d argue that all was predicted, just over 11 years ago, by yours truly, in an October 2, 2012 piece titled “Turn Out the Lights, the Parties Are Over.”

We’re not sure that you’ve heard, but this election is over. Mitt Romney has lost it. Again. We are, at this time, unable to reveal the current cause of his loss – maybe because it hasn’t happened yet; maybe because the media hasn’t yet decided what it will be; who knows? – but we know that this week, like last, he will lose the race. Again. He loses it every week, you see. Groundhog week. And then, when he refuses to panic or go away, he loses it again the next week….

In any case, we suspect that the reason he will lose this week will have something to do with the first presidential debate tomorrow night. He will lose the debate. Or he will win it, but not by enough. Or he will win it by a huge margin, but then he will come across looking smug, or condescending, or rich, or racist, or Mormon, or something else that is sure to cause people not to like him. By Friday, it will all be over. Again. And then we’ll start fresh next Monday. The alarm clock will ring and Bill Murray will get out of bed and . . . well, you know the rest.

At this point, you might be wondering why we care. After all, we have been predicting all year that Romney will lose. So, why is it a big deal that the media is simply saying the same thing?

Normally, we would begin an answer to such a question with something along the lines of, “well . . . it’s complicated.  But we won’t do that this time. Because it’s not….

Most observers, when they discuss what is likely to happen after the election, presume that the status quo will hold. They presume that Obama will win reelection, that he will come back to Washington and get back to work on “the people’s business,” and that the Republican Congress – chastened by Romney’s defeat – will get back to work with him. The two parties will continue pretty much as they always have, except with a little more pragmatism on both sides and a little more sense of urgency as well….

Norman Ornstein, a prominent political scientist and a resident scholar at the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, is just absolutely convinced that if everybody does what he is supposed to do this fall, then come next winter, the Republicans, whom he blames for the dysfunction in Washington, will rediscover their pragmatic spirit and will work hard to do what they know is right. Right “for whom,” Ornstein doesn’t say.

And that’s the conflict, as we see it.

All of those who are predicting a return to the status quo after this election are people and/or institutions who have enormous stakes in said status quo. From the media, which is insisting that the election is already over and that Romney might as well quit now; to the Washington insiders, who just want to get back to the way things used to be before the stupid Tea Partiers and their annoying grassroots BS came along and messed up everything, especially the gravy train; to the President of these here United States himself, who desperately wants not just another four years, but another four years in which he is able to do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it, without having to compromise with or – HEAVEN FORBID! – actually having to deal with the lowly and unpleasant masses of Congresspeople down at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. They all have a stake in the system as it is. They are all part of the ruling class as it currently exists. And they all like it that way. And they all want the rest of the ruling class to shut up about “the base” and “the people” and get back to running the country the way it should be run….

People are dumb. Republicans are evil (for wanting smaller government and lower taxes, of all things!). New media – e.g. the internet and cable – is also evil. And the only way back to perfect harmony is to restore the proper role of the elites, like us (i.e. Ornstein and Mann) and the real media. That’s the way it should be, and that’s the way it will be. “We know that if powerful opinion leaders speak honestly and bluntly, political leaders will respond.”…

Except that that’s not how it will be. Ornstein may not know it. After all, he has never been the sharpest knife in the drawer. And our pal President Obama may not know it. And all of the talking heads and pundits blathering on about what will and will not happen in the (likely) second Obama term may not know it. But the status quo as it once existed is over. And it is never coming back. “Business as usual” is no longer an option. And much to Ornstein’s dismay – though we doubt he’d ever have the insight to see it, much less admit it – it is the fault of the “elites.” And the media war on the truth, which he tacitly endorses and which declares the Romney candidacy dead on a weekly basis, is merely exacerbating the problem, hastening the end of the world as they know it.

The conventional wisdom has it that after the election, the partisanship will calm down. The Republicans, as we said, will be chastened and, equally important, the political and campaign guys will leave the White House for good and decamp back to Chicago, looking for the “next big thing” and leaving the President to focus on policy rather than politics.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is nuts. Rapprochement is, quite simply, never gonna happen….

[T]he 2012 presidential election will mark the end of the old partisan order and the rise of the new order, whatever it may be….

The catalyst among Republicans is likely to be Mitt Romney himself….

As for the Democratic Party, we suspect that the reckoning is a little further off. But it is coming nonetheless. As (the economist Herb) Stein’s Law has it: something that cannot go on forever won’t.

Mitt Romney was the last hurrah for the Republican establishment.  Ironically, rumor has it that he’s thinking about running for president again for the “No Labels” Party – or for vice president on a ticket helmed by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.  His staff denies the rumors, but why wouldn’t he run?  What’s he got to lose?  Three years ago, he became the first Senator in American history to vote to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial.  The GOP is as dead to him as he is to it – and has been for a long time.

As for the Democratic establishment, they’ve held firm…so far.  But like King Canute, they’ll be unable to hold back the tide.  It’s coming.  And there’s no stopping it.  New polling out today shows that 1 in 5 Democrats supports Hamas over Israel in the current war, meaning that Congresswoman Tlaib was censured for beliefs with which a significant faction of her party – and of Joe Biden’s party – actually agrees.

Who knows?  Maybe the war will drag on long enough and Biden will remain steadfast enough in his support for Israel that before he leaves office, either Debbie Stabenow or Gary Peters (the Senators from Michigan) will become the second senator to vote to convict a president of his or her own party.  It could happen.

And if it does happen, it won’t be by accident.  You can bet it will be planned that way.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.