Schieffer: Party leaders can't sway followers

On September 29, 2008, when Congress voted down an emergency bill to bail out the economy, the Dow fell 777 points.

There are real fears that something similar could happen again in these debt negotiations.

CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer says that, even with the stakes in the debt negotiations so high, political leaders are willing to commit to a deal -- but their followers aren't.

The reason House Speaker John Boehner backed away from a deal over the weekend is he couldn't deliver the Republican votes needed to pass it.

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Additionally, he's got nothing on the president. Mr. Obama can't deliver the Democratic votes to make a significant deal because Democrats still refuse to touch entitlement programs, just as Republicans won't touch anything that would raise revenues.

Most experts will tell you, both of those things are necessary to bring the deficit under control.

We've gone from gridlock to a sort of free-for-all and nobody can be sure just what will happen.

Unless they find a compromise soon and raise the debt ceiling, the government will begin defaulting on its financial obligations. If you think this economy is bad, just wait till that happens.

With leaders on both sides now having so little influence on their followers, that could happen despite the leaders' best intentions, and that's the really scary part.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.