Thursday, October 03, 2013

Government Shutdown: Political Apathy Leads to Hyper-Partisanship, Leads to Desperate Gambits

How is it that about 80 Republicans can shut a government down, send 800,000 government employees home without pay, and effectively hold an entire country's legislature hostage?

It seems ludicrous. There are 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. How can just 80 befuddle their 450 colleagues?

Those 80 are elected from hyper-partisan districts that absolutely despise Obamacare and are willing to do just about anything within the law to defeat it. Those 80 are vital to Republican control of the House. And the Democrats don't want to negotiate with those 80. Which is an important fact that's being passed over.

There was very little effort among the Democrats to reach an understanding with the Tea Party wing of the Congressional Republicans. And while this shutdown has been caused by that conservative faction, the Democrats let it happen. Which is a smart political move. As Napoleon is believed to have said "Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself." And that's what the Tea Party and the Republicans are doing.

At the same time, this extreme faction of the Republican party was duly elected by actual voters. For years, there has been a swelling movement of people who believe in strict conservative ideas. The Left has tried to dismiss these people as racist and ignorant. They've been dubbed "tea-baggers" (even a Senate Democrat used that crude term a few days ago). But they are voters, and they have expressed their "extreme" conservative views with their votes and elected many of the 80 Republicans who have shut the government down.

And that's the problem these days. Only people with strong, strict, extreme beliefs actively participate in politics these days. Only people with firm convictions play any role in the political process. When only uncompromising people engage in politics, why are we shocked when there is no compromise?

Even those of us that regularly vote don't follow politics closely. We know more about our fantasy football teams than we do about our Representatives and Senators. We read tabloid websites about celebrity hook-ups. We squabble with friends and strangers about college football rankings, and Manning vs. Brady, and PEDs in baseball.

And that's fine, except when half the country doesn't vote, and most of the people that do vote only take a passing interest in politics. Then we create a vacuum, a breeding ground for hyper-partisanship. Because only the hyper-partisans in our country take an active role in the political process.

Things are so divided in Congress because only the supporters of the extreme wing of each party invest themselves in politics. Most of us don't care. We gripe about our leaders and representatives, then continue to elect them and pay their salaries. Only for a few months every 4 years do we pay attention to what's happening, and who runs our country.

Even though I'm a conservative, I do hope this latest Tea Party gambit fails. This kind of brinkmanship (please, political pundits, stop saying "game of chicken" when there's a perfectly good word to use) is a shallow, unevolved, and unproductive way to accomplish objectives. It's also not in the spirit of a representative democracy. Representatives from a handful of districts shouldn't wield more power than those from the rest of the country. And any political mechanism or ploy that allows them to do so is undemocratic.

I don't like Obamacare. But I want to see it repealed the same way it was passed, fair and square (although it wasn't called a tax when it was moving through Congress, then the Supreme Court upheld it because it was a tax, but that's just typical misleading political labeling). It's law right now. Congress approved it, the President signed it, the Supreme Court upheld it. Conservatives, especially those who claim to love the Constitution, should swallow their pride and live with it, hoping to convince people to repeal it through traditional, Constitutional means.

To Tea Party people, what would John Adams or George Washington say about this government shutdown? What would Jefferson, the ultimate anti-big-government guy, have to say about this strategy?

I don't think many Founding Fathers in tri-corner hats would approve.

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