‘THE PARTY OF HERBERT HOOVER’…. On Wednesday, Dick Cheney met with Senate Republicans and emphasized the importance of keeping the American automotive industry afloat. “If we don’t do this, we will be known as the party of Herbert Hoover forever,” the vice president said.

The Neo-Hooverite caucus apparently seems willing to wear the label with pride.

Hilzoy noted the developments overnight, but I have to admit, I’m still struggling to understand how the Senate GOP could have successfully pulled this off. Let me get this straight: the Bush White House reached a deal with congressional Democrats on a $14 billion rescue package, and the compromise passed the House with a bipartisan majority. Some Senate Republicans not only opposed the measure, but refused to let the chamber vote on the bailout unless a series of unreasonable changes were made.

Democrats, hoping to stave off disaster, went along, and agreed to Republican demands to reduce the United Auto Workers’ wages and benefits as soon as the UAW’s current contract expired in 2011. The GOP, led in this case by Sens. Corker, Shelby, and DeMint, said that wasn’t good enough — autoworker wages had to be cut in 2009, or else. The deal fell apart, the Asian markets tumbled, U.S. futures tumbled, and at least one of the Big Three is poised to collapse.

This, for lack of a better word, is madness. But what I really don’t understand is why the rest of the Republican caucus in the Senate went along with this. Corker, Shelby, and DeMint are three far-right lawmakers from the Deep South, but they were only able to pull this off last night because there weren’t enough reasonable Republicans left.

John Judis noted:

If you look at the history of the Great Depression, what tipped that event from a global recession to depression was precisely a series of dumb, craven — or in Keynes’ word, “feather-brained” — moves by politicians blinded by ideology or by narrow self-interest. An interest rate hike here, a balanced budget there, a spending reduction or two, and we went from ten to twenty percent unemployment. Don’t imagine for a moment that the failure to bailout the auto companies isn’t one of those feather-brained moves.

Put it this way. What we have learned from the economics of the Great Depression is that in order to end the spiral of unemployment, government has to throw money at companies and consumers. It should be trying to raise wages, not lower them. The Wall Street bailout was a fiasco, but it was probably better than nothing. And the auto bailout was considerably better thought-out. Now there is a good prospect that two of the Big Three will fail, jeopardizing, perhaps, as many as a million jobs. That’s exactly the kind of thing that Americans should not be doing. But don’t tell that to those great patriots Corker, DeMint, or Shelby. They know better.

Harry Reid worked very hard — indeed, he might have been willing to compromise too much — to pull this together, but he noted last night, “By rejecting every good-faith bipartisan compromise — including those from the White House and Senator Bob Corker — it is now abundantly clear that Republicans have no interest in keeping the Big Three from collapsing…. Republicans may think that rejecting this legislation sent a message to the auto industry. Instead, they sent a message to every single American that they are more interested in settling scores than solving problems.”

The party of Herbert Hoover, indeed.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.