In the end, with elections bearing down fast on America's congressmen, it was the legion of voters bitterly opposed to the Bush administration's bailout plan whose voice was heard loud and clear in Monday night's vote. All 435 members of the House of Representatives must fight for their seats every two years and it was the bad luck of George W Bush, the US president, that, due to the timing of the upcoming elections, tactical self-interest was bound to take precedent over national fiscal strategy.
The reality came through starkly in the voting tally: of the 20 Republicans least certain to keep their seats in Congress when America votes on Nov 4, no fewer than 17 turned their backs on their presidence. Of the 21 Democrats whose futures are equally uncertain, 15 voted against the US$700 billion (Dh2.6 trillion) rescue plan. It was, said the Wall Street Journal, an illustration of "the political hazards of bailing out Wall Street without offering an equally generous hand to taxpayers".
Darrell Issa, a Republican Representative from California, who voted against the measures, told reporters: "The vast majority of my voters looked at this as a bailout for Wall Street." To make the point, he loaded his website with the avalanche of protests he had received: "Stand up against this trillion Dollar bailout," wrote "Rod", of Oceanside, in an impassioned if badly spell-checked e-mail to Mr Issa.
"My Wife and I have been married 44 years, got married at 17 never made to many bad discisions have paid off all of our bills and retired with our home at the beach, we are overtaxed now. how bad will they be after we keep the fat cats in there cushy jobs on walll street, they made the mess let them suffer." Rod was one of more than 1,500 constituents so outraged at the plan to shore up Wall Street that they took the trouble to contact Mr Issa.
It was an issue that crossed party boundaries: "As a Democrat and Obama supporter," wrote Danielle, "I was pleasantly surprised to find that I completely support your position on the bailout. Please fight to keep us responsible taxpayers from having to bear the burdens of the irresponsible behaviors of others." Before the vote, an activist website in Los Angeles published a list of 33 marginal constituencies. "Get off the message boards," it told its readers, "and get on a fax machine."
After the vote, Stopthehousingbailout.com, run by Morgan Ward Doran, a 37-year-old lawyer, hailed the defeat as "absolutely amazing", adding: "Talk about Rocking A Vote. You all NAILED IT!!!" Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, collected more than 23,000 signatures from constituents opposed to the deal. "If a bailout is necessary, it must be paid for by those on Wall Street who caused the problem and the very wealthy who pocketed huge profits," he said.
"If the potential danger to our economy was not so dire," he added, "this blatant effort to essentially transfer $700bn up the income ladder to those at the top would be laughable." * The National