Strange bedfellows

by YES! Weekly staff

“Politics makes strange bedfellows” — Charles Dudley Warner

When the bottom drops out and the chips are down, when complicit parties and innocent bystanders alike go scurrying for cover, strange alliances are formed in the trenches for the sake of common interest. It happened in the 1960s, when the Black Panthers hooked up with the leftist intelligentsia in New York City. It happened in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan embraced the Christian right as an important faction of the Republican Party, to Barry Goldwater’s dismay. And it happened again last month when our leaders agreed to bankroll a bailout of a group of industries that have been preying upon regular Americans for the last 10 years — banks that charged usurious interest rates, lenders who pushed their product through the mill, corporations that lavished bonuses and trips upon their executives while cutting domestic jobs and maintaining a lock on wages for regular folk. And when the credit dried up and the cavalry — in the form of a hurried bill laden with about 17percent pork — rode in, we all took our positions and then looked around the foxholes to see who else was there with us. Hardcore free-market conservatives stood with ordinary mortgage-humping schlubs, both against the bailout but for very different reasons, born from ideology and resentment. Democrats and Republicans alike who once championed the cause of deregulation now scream for layers of oversight on our financial system. Guys like Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, once the knights charged with the custodianship of capitalism, quite literally begged for a good dose of socialism, just this once. The merchants of fear in the current administration, not knowing quite how to handle a legitimate and serious crisis, threw their lot in with the Democratic leadership in a final insult to those who strictly adhere to the Republican faith. In North Carolina, Rep. Howard Coble (R) flipped, Rep. Heath Shuler (D) found himself on the same side as Sen. Liddy Dole (R) and, astoundingly, a group of Triad-area socialists demonstrated in opposition to the bailout. So these are the new factions in the War on Capitalism, with battle lines drawn by circumstance, self-interest, emotion and philosophy, each one bracing itself for our rapid march into recession, our collective pockets more than $700 billion lighter after the ultimate corporate raid on the treasury. And if it was politics that brought these disparate groups together, it will be the pains of the recession that will galvanize the tribes. “Misery,” Shakespeare noted in The Tempest, “acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

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