Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thoughts on the Government Shutdown 2013

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are the only safe depositories.

Thomas Jefferson

It is painful, even agonizing, to behold the spectacle of the Republic being bludgeoned by a group of tea party representatives intoning to get their way, a way that has already been set aside by the voters and a way that does not connect on any level with the national interest.

These ideologues will have their comeuppance, eventually, but at what harm to the Nation?

After all, there was an election, and the President won.   The House of Representatives arguably do not represent the people since the elected representatives have been the beneficiaries of extensive gerrymandering of congressional districts and hold office as an actual minority party.  More voters on a national level voted for the democrats in the House than the Republicans in the  2012 election.  The tea partiers, already in the minority party, are even more of a minority, but a very vocal yet vacuous one.  They are the right wing answer to the Abbie Hoffmans of the 60s.  They hold no mandate, yet they hold the government in a hammerlock.

The injustice of this arrangement becomes more and more obvious by the day.  This is a stunning testament to the dysfunction of our present system.   Not only is the Electoral College broken, but the methodology of electing congress is broken as well.

Somehow we have to reach an accommodation by which the elected representatives are actually representing the people.
They clearly are not, because the people, or at least a majority of them when calculated on a national level, did not vote for the tea party to be able to control the House of Representatives. And the House is being led by a mediocre politician who does not stand up to scrutiny as a leader.   We have known Sam Rayburn, we have known Tip O’Neil, we have known Dennis Hastert, and although they were all tinged and were flawed men, they knew how to get votes together so that the government could work.

Some say the political climate is more divisive these days, but if one looks back at our history, we cannot be so certain of that. Even though we had a civil war, slavery, a union torn asunder, we did not have Fox News and instant punsters shouting and bloviating on the television, infesting the Internet with vitriolic banter.   It is not a helpful or thoughtful atmosphere for accommodation and compromise.

Most of the voters, although subject to influence of pollsters asking questions of approval about national health care have expressed a favorable opinion concerning people with preexisting conditions being able to obtain insurance and to have access to health care.  They have also expressed the opinion that if someone is ill and had lost their job, they should still be covered.  Or that their children can remain on their policies until they are more independent.  One really cannot argue with that by saying that “Obama care will put the government between you and your doctor.”   That is a lie.  Insurance companies are always feeding their bottom line and they have come between you and your doctor also, but Republicans do not like to point that out, because those are the lobbyists whom they serve.  They advanced those arguments against a single payer, at the behest of those same insurance companies.  Most seniors like Medicare and do not think that the government intrudes in their health care decisions.

Now we are faced with the spectacle of our government having been shut down by a minion of yokels who are afraid they will lose their primary to the more ideological ultra conservatives.   What is even more disturbing is that these conservatives have misread the demographic trajectory on which the country is headed—more progressive, not more conservative.  So the electorate will speak again next year and the results will be even more crushing for them in 2014 than they were in 2012.  Perhaps then they will understand.  Ted Cruz is a McCarthyesque caricature,  the embodiment of demagoguery, and if he had been here 60 years ago he would have been railing about Communists taking over the world.

When one thinks that the House voted 42 times to repeal a law that they knew would not be passed by either the Senate or not vetoed by President, instead of working to address other important issues facing the country, such as immigration reform, tax reform, passing a budget, education, defense expenditure cuts, and foreign policy decisions, to name a few, it sends a shudder through us all, realizing that our government needs fixing both in the manner of electing representatives, the composition of the House, and of electing the President.   We are delayed in our progress in an increasingly competitive world.  And time is of the essence.  American exceptionalism, if it existed at all, is threatened by knuckleheaded congressmen who belong elsewhere.

The arguments in earlier columns expressed in this space concerning a constitutional rewrite become more evident with each passing year, our 18th century constitution creaking and moaning under the strain of 21st century vicissitudes.