By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
As I write this, things are looking good for an Obama victory, perhaps one of huge proportions. But well aware of the GOP's history of massive voter-suppression and voter intimidation (examples of which are in the news each day**), and the below-the-radar vote-counting manipulations, and quite cognizant of the dark strain of racism in American society, I'm not assuming the election's in the bag.
A landslide Obama turnout may not be enough. It may take an electoral victory of tsunami proportions to counter the Rove-ian dirty tricks operations, which is why so many of us are heading toward swing states this week to help make that happen.
So as the campaigns enter their final week, I thought I'd take a longer view of the political landscape and see what the post-Inauguration future might look like. Short version: Were Obama to emerge victorious, this election could well be transformative in a number of areas beyond the obvious one of celebrating America's rendezvous with history.
NEVER-CEASING GOP CAMPAIGN
Republican leaders are quite aware of this transformative possibility and will do everything between now and next Tuesday to make sure that doesn't happen. But if Obama were to win, even with a blow-out victory, one can safely predict that a President Obama would enjoy no traditional "honeymoon" in his first months in office. The HardRightists, the same ones who have been fighting Obama so viciously and disgracefully during the campaign, are not about to call it quits after November.
Palin got their blood boiling, their prejudices affirmed, their extremism sanctioned. The HardRightists on their way out will not take kindly to being separated from the levers and organ$ of power. They will do everything to ensure that a President Obama will face unwavering attacks from his first day in office. No surrender, no making nice, no civil discourse. This likelihood will be even worse if the Republicans hold on to enough Senate seats to continue filibustering Democratic proposals.
These rightwing forces more or less did the same thing to Bill Clinton right after he assumed the presidency in 1992. From day one, they invented supposed "scandals" one right after the other to upset his momentum, distract him from governance, hope some of the mud would stick; eventually, they even went so far as to get him impeached, thus wrecking any movement of his centrist-liberal agenda throughout much of Clinton's second term. Luckily, the American people widely agreed that the Republicans went way too far in hounding Clinton -- that lying about sex did not rise to the level of impeachable offenses -- and successfully pressured the Senate not to convict.
HOW REPUBLICAN PARTY COULD SPLIT
It's obvious that if the Republicans are swept badly in both the presidential contest and in the Senate and House next week, there will be major soul-searching within the party, perhaps even a split into two openly warring camps rather than the relatively covert civil war currently being waged, as fingers of blame are being pointed over their current chaotic campaign. It will be the night of the long knives as the two sides try to control the future of the Republican Party.
One camp, more ideological at heart (with Sarah Palin, if she's not indicted in Alaska, playing a key role), will argue that the Republicans lost because they "weren't conservative enough," that they sold out the ideological "purity" of the party by taking wishy-washy stands instead of proudly championing more solidly "conservative" causes. In essence, Palin staffers are starting to propound this case and, at least according to key McCain staffers, who have referred to Palin as a "diva" who is shedding her McCain minders and going "rogue," she can be expected to strike out even more on her own along these extreme lines. You betcha.
The other camp, the more pragmatic-realist side (with perhaps a key role played by Colin Powell), will argue that the voters are telling the GOP loudly and clearly that Rove's narrow, base-oriented political strategy doesn't work anymore. The Republicans, they will say, blew their opportunity by going too far to the right and, in so doing, took the country into an unwinnable war, wrecked the economy and risked destroying the party. An obtuse McCain, full of himself and his biography, made no changes from that base-only strategy. To regain power, these traditional-conservative critics might argue, the GOP has to distance itself from the extremists and neo-cons, jettison the smear-politics, and move closer to the Republican Party's moderate locus.
In this scenario, the Democrats would rule from the center-left, and the Republicans, to be competitive, would have to offer a more center-right agenda, resting on a conservative ideology but made more palatable to an American citizenry that eschews extremism and hovers mostly around the middle.
It's not likely but it is possible that the competing Republican wings will be unable to find a way of sharing power, the result being two distinct political entities, perhaps with the extreme rightwingers joining forces with all sorts of fringe parties and groups.
HOW THE DEMOCRATS COULD SPLIT
If Obama carries his party to victory, especially so if the Democrats sweep both the House and Senate, the new president might well be able to pass significant changes in laws from the CheneyBush years, dealing with tax-reform, education and health care, as well as restoring respect for Constitutional protections and starting the withdrawal from Iraq, etc.