The crushing defeat and subsequent victory of the $700 billion economic bailout bill last week left both parties pointing fingers, claiming both the failure of conservatism and the triumph of liberalism depending on one’s party or politics. But the Republicans and Democrats doing the most pointing had it completely backwards, as what we saw was the triumph, and then defeat, of both the hard right and the hard left.

The 133 Republican and 95 Democrat Congressmen who initially voted against the largest corporate welfare proposal in U.S. history did so for one of two reasons: their political principles would not allow it, or they feared their constituents would not stand for it during an election year. Said Republican Duncan Hunter, a hard-right conservative, “There are certainly steps Congress should take to address the current condition of our financial and housing markets, but a taxpayer funded bailout of Wall Street is definitely not one of them.”

When Democrat John Conyers, a hard left liberal, was asked what he thought about the bill, he replied, “Not much … [and] I can tell you we haven’t gotten one call in 10 days in support of this plan.”

Conservative Republican Ron Paul and liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich were even more blunt. Said Paul on the House floor, “The beneficiaries of the corrupt monetary system of the last three decades are now desperately looking for victims to stick with the bill after they have reaped decades of profit and privilege.” Added Kucinich, “Under the failed $700 billion bailout plan, Wall Street’s profits are Wall Street’s profits and Wall Street’s losses are the taxpayers’ losses. Profits are capitalized. Losses are socialized.”

And who were the socialists on the bailout bill? Far-left Democrats like Conyers or Kucinich? Hardly. Republicans George W. Bush and John McCain joined Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama in supporting a government economic intervention of massive and unprecedented proportions.

Compare their position to that of arguably the most left-wing U.S. senator — and self-described “socialist” — Bernie Sanders, of Vermont. Sanders said, “Vermonters and people across America are saying very clearly that this bailout is a bad idea and that the struggling middle class should not have to pay for the greed and excesses of Wall Street.”

Conservatives who fear that “liberal” Obama might win in November need to take a good look at their own president and his possible successor. Prior to the bailout failure, conservative columnist George Will declared Bush the “most leftist administration” in American history and accused McCain of marching in lockstep. He’s right. It’s hard to get worked up about the cost of universal health care when Republicans are proposing universal welfare.

The quickest way to achieve power and the privilege it affords in Washington, D.C., is to carry water for government and corporate interests, something a McCain or an Obama are certainly guiltier of than leaders like Paul or Kucinich. In South Carolina, conservative Republican Jim DeMint voted against the bailout in the Senate and liberal Republican Lindsey Graham voted for it. It is no coincidence that DeMint also voted against amnesty for illegal aliens last year and Graham’s “yes” vote earned him the label “Grahamnesty.” It is also no coincidence that South Carolina’s senior senator is a much bigger superstar on Capitol Hill and one of McCain’s closest confidants, while the junior senator is not, precisely because he often votes for the interests of the Palmetto State and Graham often votes in favor of the interests of the big government, corporate welfare state.

When the bailout bill finally passed, 108 Republicans and 63 Democrats in the House still refused to support it. Hunter and Paul voted against it both rounds, as did liberals Conyers and Kucinich. The House of Representatives was designed by the Founding Fathers to represent the general will more than any other branch of government. Virtually no one at the grassroots level supported this bill, so it is no coincidence the populist right and left offered the greatest opposition.

The folks on Capitol Hill, who initially opposed this bill, and then supported a more pork-laden version of it, represent everything that is wrong with American government. The “extremists” of both parties who fought it represent the only hope for real political change and national salvation.

Conservatives and liberals more comfortable with the false left-versus-right divide offered every four years, can now make themselves comfortable with the grandest socialist experiment in American history. But as the big government Democrats love continues to collude with the big corporations Republicans love, concerned patriots of any stripe might finally discover that the so-called “lunatic fringe,” as represented by men like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, isn’t so loony after all.

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.

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