Steve Benen has posited that Republicans are likely to try to sabotage the economy over the next couple years to increase their chances of winning the White House in 2012. This caused former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson (don’t worry, this is just a link to Benen’s reply) to condemn him as an unserious partisan.
There is a lot of precedent for this type of sabotage, from Bill Kristol’s anti-HCR letter in 1994 to the recent New Black Panther Party nontroversy being pimped by Bush appointees. But the real reason, as Benen points out, that Republicans will try to sabotage the economy is that they will gain by doing so and suffer few if any repercussions:
Historically, lawmakers from both parties have resisted any kind of temptations along these lines for one simple reason: they didn’t think they’d get away with it. If members of Congress set out to undermine the strength of the country, deliberately, just to weaken an elected president, they risked a brutal backlash — the media would excoriate them, and the punishment from voters would be severe.
But I get the sense Republicans no longer have any such fears. The media tends to avoid holding congressional parties accountable, and voters aren’t really paying attention anyway. The Boehner/McConnell GOP appears willing to gamble: if they can hold the country back, voters will just blame the president in the end. And that’s quite possibly a safe assumption.
There’s a general unwillingness in establishment media to consider the ramifications of living in a post-reality media world. But right now, Republicans could do almost anything and be defended to the hilt by Fox News. Then Bobo would come in with “I don’t agree with Michelle Bachmann’s decision to shoot Joe Biden in the face, but it is part of a federalist tradition of principled Burkean action that is justified by Niebuhr’s theories of just wars”, then we’d get the Charles Lane piece comparing Bachmann to John Brown, then the Gerson piece about how this pales in comparison to the excesses of liberalism, then the Glenn Beck story about how Biden deserved it for tinkering with the Consumer Price Index, then the Sarah Palin Facebook post about how this made Bachmann more of a mama grizzly, then some Chunky Bobo about how if Biden didn’t want to get shot, he shouldn’t have supported reproductive rights (and on a smaller, less-read scale, League of Ordinary Gentlemen, Outside the Beltway, and Reason would simply worry that now libruls would come for their guns, the same way they came for Four Loko and free market trash collection).
Republicans would be crazy not to do everything in their power to prolong the recession. I’m not sure they’ll be able to do much, but they’d be nuts not to try.