Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. The place to begin with any discussion about the so-called “failure of leadership” that led to the so-called “government shutdown” is with the people themselves.
Americans are politically schizophrenic. Evidence of this sorry diagnosis abounds in election results and polls.
Consider the day’s front-burner issue: A substantial and resilient majority says it abhors the Affordable Care Act (which even the president calls Obamacare), but 11 months ago we not only re-elected the guy for whom the law is nicknamed, we preserved his Democratic Party firewall in the Senate.
Meanwhile, we upheld the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, presumably to prevent resumption of the one-party excesses that followed 2008’s hope-and-change election, and also presumably to do something about enactment of Obamacare.
But now that House Republicans have done just that, they have encountered little besides grief for their efforts, whether their tactic was to defund, delay or otherwise reshape Obamacare.
Meanwhile, fulfilling its role as presidential enforcer (and feeling the bizarre momentum of public sentiment), the Senate has gone all Dwight Howard on the House, swatting back each continuing resolution – the mechanism designed to keep Washington operating in the absence of a real budget – with a zeal bordering on the monotonous.
So now the CNN clock that ticked down to the expiration of the last CR has reversed itself, counting up the seconds during which some 800,000 “nonessential” federal workers have been ordered off their jobs, and Americans who give scant thought to the tangled messages they send to Washington decry, as mentioned above, a failure of leadership.
Yeah, well, guess what: George Washington is dead. Ronald Reagan too, for that matter.
And anyway, in our instant-streaming, get-it-free, isolationist, echo-chambered, 140-character culture, “failure of leadership” means nothing more than the governing class’ inability to deliver what I want. Without compromise. In endless color and variety. Now!
This almost certainly helps explain why candidates promising free stuff win on Election Day. Mitt Romney’s unguarded observation about the 47 percent might have cost him the presidency, but the evidence suggests he wasn’t off target.
In such an atmosphere, one way to make inroads is by demonstrating how one side goes about granting favors to the politically connected – including itself. For instance, historians of the late 20th century recall well how what came to be known as the House banking scandal (members, almost exclusively Democrats, writing themselves a shocking number of interest-free payday loans) fueled the GOP’s takeover in 1994.
Now, setting the stage for the 2014 midterm elections, House Republicans have managed to expose Democratic senators’ devotion to favoritism. Let’s concede, for argument’s sake, they stood on some vague sense of principle when they rejected the House CRs that attacked Obamacare’s core.
But it takes a stretch worthy of Plastic Man to identify the principle that supports Senate Democrats’ spurning of the last House gambit before Monday’s midnight deadline, the one that would have overturned tax-funded premium subsidies (up to 75 percent) for federal elected officials, their staffs and other Capitol Hill employees.
Now that House Republicans have set the hook – let Democratic senators from red and purple states facing reelection next year explain that one (again and again and again) – it’s time they stood down. This means you, too, Gus Bilirakis.
Time to vote to reopen Washington. Take down the barricades and invite the nonessentials back to their posts. You’ve made your point: Obamacare, festering boils, carve-outs and all, belongs to the other guys.
You have 13 months to educate the schizophrenic folks back home.