|Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell|
Finally, after 16 days of a government shutdown and mere hours before a potential economic crisis that could affect the economy of the entire world, the showdown has ended and the conservative wing of the Republican party has given up their crazy, quixotic and dangerous attempt to defund Obamacare by basically putting a gun to the head of the government. With polls showing Republican approval ratings cratering, they had no choice but to concede. The resolution was as positive as possible, with Republicans only getting the most minor tweak of the healthcare bill (a small matter of eligibility) in return for their bullying tantrum. How glad am I about this? Can an atheist use the term hallelujah?
How extreme is the rightwing of the Republican party? In the house 144 of them voted against ending the shutdown with only 87 supporting it, along with 18 members of the senate. Yes, that's right, a majority of Republicans in the house voted to not raise the debt ceiling, something never done before in this country, which could plunge America (and possibly the world) into another recession. Amazingly, some Republican congressmen and leaders have actually encouraged congress to not raise the debt ceiling, saying the effects would not be so bad, discounting the predictions of pretty much every economist in the country! Thankfully, this wing of the party did not win out.
I should mention that certainly not all conservatives saw the standoff as a good thing; anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist said in an interview with The National Review: “they hurt people’s health care, they hurt the country’s economic situation and they hurt the Republican party. And a lot of congressmen and senators are not going to win because we spent three months chasing our own tail — or at least, parts of the conservative movement spent three months chasing their own tail.” He certainly isn't the only one; is it possible that the Tea Party could split from Republicans and form a third party? Right now they appear to be standing fast with their Republican leaders, but future divisions may fracture them.
From the start, it was hard to see just what the Republican's objective was; did they really think that the president would defund or delay The Affordable Care Act? Or that he would negotiate government spending with a gun to his head? Consider the precedent that would have set, with a minority party in congress always threatening the president with a shutdown for whatever they want. Someday there will be another Republican president, how would conservatives feel then if Democrats in congress pulled the same trick?
During this whole debacle, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998; once again, an extreme wing of the Republican party pushed the country in a direction it didn't want to go in order to score political points. Polls at the time showed that a clear majority of Americans did not think that president Clinton's lying about a sexual affair while under oath was worthy of impeachment, and furthermore, there was no way that the two thirds of the senate needed in order to impeach would vote for it. And yet the Republican house demanded it.
And just like during that earlier scandal, the rest of the world is looking at America and shaking their heads in wonder. How could the government of the world's largest economy almost cause a world wide crisis? In every other first world country there is government run healthcare, but in the US the president's attempt to use a market based system to provide care for the millions of Americans without it is denounced as (according to Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita) "one of the most insidious laws ever created by man".
|Say what, Todd?|
While I'm glad this whole thing is over, the Republicans may have won on one level; this exhausting distraction has preoccupied the president, pushing onto the back burner important legislation like immigration reform (and wait until the conservatives start demagoguing that issue!). Still, I'm hoping that this outburst will go down in history like Strom Thurmond's 24 hour filibuster of the civil rights bill in 1957; the last gasp of a breed of people that the country was swiftly leaving behind.