It moves… there will still be monkey business even as one good sign has been put into place:
The GOP loves their pre-existing conditions: saddling JFK with the Vietnam War and the Bay of Pigs, Obama with the Great Recession.
What’s the worst that can happen during a transition between two American presidents taking place at a time of deep partisan division and nationwide unrest? You can find one historical answer by looking at the transition between James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln after the election of 1860: secession, soon to be followed by civil war. Another answer, historian Heather Cox Richardson argued when I reached her recently with this question, comes from the transition between Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland after the election of 1892: economic disaster, egged on by a vengeful lame-duck administration willing to leave things a mess for its successor.
OK, so in this between time, what things did the Republicans do to enable or facilitate this crash?
There’s so much in newspapers that [Republicans] run that enables the panic. The Chicago Tribune is a great example. They tell readers that the easy money Democrats promised would destroy industry and throw people out of work—but, they say, that’s fine. I’ll read you a passage: “The working classes of the country need a lesson. … It remains for the wise man to endeavor so to arrange his personal affairs that he will suffer least from the threatened affliction.” So basically, the Republicans will be passive spectators; it won’t be their funeral. It goes on and on like this.
So the minute Cleveland is elected, the gold started flowing out of the country to Europe. And the outgoing Harrison administration refused to reassure investors. By February 1893, the stock market was paralyzed and Eastern bankers begged for an issue of bonds to replenish the Treasury, but the administration announced there was no financial problem. J.P. Morgan went to Washington to urge Harrison to do something, but the administration wasn’t moved. That’s when the secretary of the treasury made that comment about Republicans only being responsible for the economy until March 4.
On Feb. 17, the market collapsed. Panicked observers begged Harrison to relieve the crisis, but with only eight days left in his term, they maintained nothing was happening. The secretary of the treasury spent his last few days in office sitting for his portrait.
Wall Street watched the outgoing administration in disgust. … I’ll read you a quote from the New York Times: “If the national Treasury Department had been retained especially to manufacture apprehension and create disturbance, it could not have done more effective work.” Before handing the department over to his successor, Foster told the newspapers that “the tTeasury was down to bedrock.”
They crashed the economy! Then, for the midterms in 1894, they went and told people, We told you the Democrats would crash the economy; reelect the Republicans and we’ll be fine. So the Republicans won, in what was the biggest landslide midterm election in American history, and they said, Everything’s going to be fine now.