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Sunday, October 6, 2013

No Way to Run a Country

It's no secret that the current budget battle that has shut down the government hinges on a Republican effort to kill Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare. In short some (not all) Republicans want Democrats to agree to kill a piece of legislation that was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and later ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court. As Jon Stewart so humorously pointed out the other night on the Daily Show ("Rockin' Shutdown Eve"), that's usually more than enough for a law to be implemented, so it's no surprise that the Democrats didn't agree to meet the Republicans "half-way."

If Republicans really think Obamacare is bad for America, then they need to get rid of it the old fashioned way: gain control of Congress and/or the White House and pass a bill to repeal it. Until then, they need to stop holding America hostage just because they don't like it.  If they don't, the
Republicans are setting a precedent which, if followed, would make America ungovernable. Voters have seen fit to give their party control of one arm of government—the House of Representatives—while handing the Democrats the White House and the Senate. If a party with such a modest electoral mandate threatens to shut down government unless the other side repeals a law it does not like, apparently settled legislation will always be vulnerable to repeal by the minority. Washington will be permanently paralysed and America condemned to chronic uncertainty
 (The Economist, "No Way to Run a Country").
Is that what Republicans really want? I don't think so. Not really. Maybe a few do, but at some point in the future, the situation will be reversed. Do the Republicans really want to set this precedent? Do they really want to create a situation that could later be used against them? I would think not, but you never know.

Moreover, it strikes me as political suicide. Just as President Obama's approval rating was taking a hit, a handful of Republicans have managed to paint the G.O.P. as obstructionist and uncompromising.. Indeed, reports suggest that if House Speaker John Boehner allowed a vote on a budget resolution without conditions to come to the floor (one that did not require a scaling back or delaying of Obamacare), it would pass with substantial Republican support. I could be wrong. Indeed, some have pointed to the "benefits of intransigence" and how the shutdown has provided House Republicans with an opportunity to reassemble the federal government piece by piece ("Some in G.O.P. Try to Pick and Choose Amid Spending Fight"). I think they're wrong, but you never know. I've been wrong plenty of times before.

P.S. Recent polls (October 2-8) show that Republicans are getting slightly more of the blame for the shutdown than President Obama and the Democrats. A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday found that 30% percent of Americans blamed Republicans, up from 26%, while 19% blamed Obama and Democrats, up from 18%. Similarly, in a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 70% say they disapprove of how Congressional Republicans have handled negotiations (up from 63%), while 51% (up from 50%) and 61% (up from 56%) disapprove of how President Obama and Congressional Democrats have handled negotiations, respectively. 


  1. While I agree with you that this is a bad way of trying to alter, end, whatever, the ACA ("Obamacare"), I think that there are other circumstances that complicate this whole thing. It is difficult to expect the opposition to respect the law when the President himself has engaged in some dubious behavior, constitutionally, regarding the same law. Does a President have the power simply, by presidential fiat, to declare a portion of a law passed by constitutional process "suspended" or "delayed" for a year? Congress did not act to alter the law; the President simply declared it delayed. Constitutional regard is a thing of the past for everyone, it would seem.

    Secondly, I would point out that the Administration's pick and choose approach to what part of the govt is shutdown (open air monuments in D.C., and the NOAA website) and what part is not (websites related to signing up for the ACA) are as partisan as what the Tea Party Republicans are manufacturing.

    Finally, I think that unless people begin to look at the underlying causes of anger against this administration then we do not understand all of the reasons for this selective "shutdown." It is not enough that this administration and the Democratic Party are committed to a complete redefining of society (i.e., same-sex marriage, etc), but it is setting up a system to punish those who cannot, in good faith or conscience, go along with it. Even as laws are passed mandating same-sex marriage, people in business who decline to serve a same-sex marriage (photographers, bakers, venue-owners) find themselves on the chopping block. I think this is spilling over into a lot more anger than the media want to acknowledge. And given the way the media portrays all of this, it only adds to the anger and the growing sense of persecution that is growing among those who are not so committed to this brave new world. Just my thoughts.

  2. Walter: Thanks for commenting. I don't get too many (except computer generated ones that can be quite obnoxious).

    I think you make a lot of good points. I do seem to recall liberals making similar (complaints) about "W's" tendency to act by fiat and acting in constitutionally dubious behavior. I don't have the time or energy to track those old complaints down and the reactions to them, but i"m guessing that a lot of folks who are complaining about Obama's behavior looked the other way when Bush acted in similar ways. That doesn't excuse Obama's behavior, but I don't recall Democrats shutting the gov't down when Bush took steps that angered them.

    As far as the anger, I think you are absolutely correct. It's there. It's real. The question is how widespread is it. A year ago it wasn't widespread enough to boot Obama from the White House. It will be interesting to see if it's widespread enough for Republicans to gain control of the Senate a year from now.

    Which, of course, brings me back to the main point of the post. It's OK to be ticked off at what the President (or Congress) is doing, but the way to solve it is through the democratic process (unless, of course, people are denied access to the democratic process, such as African-Americans in the South were in the 1960s.

  3. Good points, Sean, and perhaps proof that we had already become "ungovernable" before Obama was ever elected (I remember a retired Presbyterian minister I know with a bumper sticker that said something like, "My dog never met a Bush he didn't like." This same person, no doubt, probably complains about the lack of civility toward Obama. But all this begs the question about whether we have a Constitution or not, and if we do, then good and well, let's abide by it. If not, then perhaps it is time to suspend the Union and start over. But what does the "democratic process" mean? If it does not mean acting constitutionally, then effectively there is no democratic process. In fact, one could argue that the process has given us a divided government, so here we are.

  4. Why aren't you watching the Braves game?

  5. Walter: I spend most of my day studying terrorists, insurgencies, failed states, etc., and from my perspective, although our country isn't perfect, we're pretty damned lucky to be living where we are.

  6. Dr Everton, I really enjoy your posts. I woupd probably comment more often, but the USER ACCESS rules here in Afghanistan block me from your site! When I get back home, I'll probably be irritating you with my replies! Jon Bleakley