By ROSS DOUTHAT
Published: November 19, 2011
The murmurs about Barack Obama being forced out began in Berlin and Beijing. After his party lost the midterm vote, there were hints that a government of technocrats would be imposed on America, to save the country from a debt crisis and the world from a depression.
As the debt-ceiling negotiations stalled out over the summer, a global coalition — led by Germany, China and the International Monetary Fund — began working behind the scenes to ease Obama out of the White House. The credit downgrade was the final blow: the president had lost the confidence of the world’s shadow government, and his administration could no longer survive.
Within days, thanks to some unusual constitutional maneuvering, Obama resigned the presidency and Michael Bloomberg was invited to take the oath of office. With Beijing issuing veiled threats against our currency, Congress had no choice but to turn the country’s finances over to the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of 6, which in turn acceded to Chinese and German “supervision” of their negotiations. Meanwhile, there was a growing consensus in Europe and Asia that only a true global superstate could prevent the debt contagion from spreading ...
FOR Americans, the scenario I’ve just imagined is a paranoid fantasy, the kind of New World Order nightmare that haunts the sleep of black-helicopter watchers and Trilateral Commission obsessives.
But for the inhabitants of Italy and Greece, who have just watched democratically elected governments toppled by pressure from financiers, European Union bureaucrats and foreign heads of state, it evokes the cold reality of 21st-century politics. Democracy may be nice in theory, but in a time of crisis it’s the technocrats who really get to call the shots. National sovereignty is a pretty concept, but the survival of the European common currency comes first.
There were few tears in Italy and Greece for Silvio Berlusconi and George Papandreou, the prime ministers — respectively corrupt and hapless — whose downfalls were engineered by the Brussels-Berlin-Paris axis. But their forced departures, however welcome, open a troubling window on what a true European state would look like. Stability would be achieved at the expense of democracy: the rituals of parliaments and elections would endure, but the real decision-making power would pass permanently to the forces represented by the so-called “Frankfurt Group” — an ad hoc inner circle consisting of Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and a cluster of bankers and E.U. functionaries, which has been spearheaded European crisis management since October.
The preview is important because this is precisely the future that almost every informed commentator assumes Europe needs to embrace in order to save the euro and prevent an economic meltdown. The old conventional wisdom held that a continentwide currency union was a wonderful idea, and that euroskeptics were all knuckle-dragging troglodytes. The new conventional wisdom is that yes, well, maybe the knuckle-draggers were right about the perils of the euro, but it’s far too late to back out now.