John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Bailout, the GOP, and Refighting the Civil War

Posted on December 14, 2008



            The Washington Post has an interesting story on its front page about the regional differences between the North and the South when it came to the auto bailout, “Views on Auto Aid Fall On North-South Divide, Tennessee's Nonunion Workers Bristle At Bailout Talk for Detroit's Big Three.”


         Cloaked in conservative rhetoric, Southern Senators like Richard Shelby, Bob Corker, and Jim DeMint seem to be refighting the Civil War by other means.  As the story puts it, “The bailout efforts for Detroit's Big Three are laying bare long-held resentments between union and nonunion workers, echoing North-South divisions as old as the Civil War.”


            You can be from the North and not love unions.  I have often written about how the UAW, the Service Employee Union, and especially the teacher’s unions are often corrupt organizations that screw both management and the worker.


            But the particular venom with which the southern bloc conspired to put a dagger through the Big Three will not play well in the north, I predict.


            The GOP is becoming a regional party.  The last elections only confirmed that trend.  We are getting killed in New York, New England, the upper Midwest, and in many parts of the west.


            The rise of Social conservatism as the most important force in the Republican party has alienated voters in the suburbs in the north.   And in this most crucial of tests, whether or not to keep Detroit’s Big Three alive, the South has risen again and done their best to put them out of business.


            The idea that the South is somehow pure when it comes to the free market is ridiculous.  The incentives that Southern governors offer foreign auto manufacturers to open plants in their states stretch in the billions.  And in my time in Congress, I saw many of these so-called free market zealots push hard to get pork-barrell funding for their constituents.


            The Bush Administration understands the implications should General Motors go out of business.  They understand the national security implications as well as the economic implications.  They also understand that the credit crisis has pushed an already weak industry to the breaking point, and they are willing to provide a bridge loan to help these companies stay alive during this unprecedented period in our nation’s history.


            The irony is that should the Big Three go down, the implications are equally dire for foreign manufacturers.  Indeed, Japanese automakers are getting significant help from their government, because they understand the wider implications of the credit crisis.


            Having Corker, Shelby and DeMint be the point men on this bailout is not good politics for the GOP north of the Mason Dixon line.  They might think they are doing their constituents proud, but I don’t think they are helping us rebuild the party in the Midwest or in the North East.