In many parts of the world — let’s say Egypt, for a familiar point of reference — members of an “irrational fringe” who tried to undermine the political system by overturning a law already confirmed by three branches of government would be called insurgents and their behavior would lead to arrest, prison or worse.
Here? They call themselves “patriots”. I just can’t figure out what’s so damn patriotic about being sock puppets for the wealthy who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about anything but power and screwing over poor or unemployed Americans through no fault of their own.
I’ve been watching the run-up to the government shutdown in Washington like most Americans, and thinking how stupid the whole exercise is. At times, I have tried to explain it to other reasonable Americans but always seem to get bogged down because reasonable people just don’t think like Republicans insurgents. Many of them think, mistakenly, that this is just simply Americans having an argument about the budget or the deficit.
Unfortunately they’re part of the largest component of Americans who don’t want to, or simply can’t find an outlet on television to give them the truth: This is an attempt by one part of the U.S. political system to use the budgetary process to stop the implementation of a single law, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).
It’s usually at this point that my reasonable friends tilt their heads the same way my recently passed long-time companion, Libby, a lovable weimeraner, used to tilt hers when I screamed at the television set because my alma mater’s football team just made me swear off watching them lose for the 400th time.
If they read or heard the commentary spewing out Congress–the most dysfunctional branch of the U.S. government since Antonin Scalia became a Supreme TBagg Court Justice–they are even more confused.
That which surprises me the most is the hundreds of new age authors who have written, blogged or self-righteously tweeted about the results of various polls on these events—as if they matter. Do 37 percent of Americans oppose ObamaCare? Do 73.7 percent oppose the Republican tantrum over their unsuccessful attempts to stop ObamaCare?
Seriously, does it matter that 97 percent of Republicans hate ObamaCare even more than they hate death and taxes? Really? Does it? I mean who cares? In a working democracy, it’s absolutely irrelevant what the majority happens to think at any given point in time. It’s mostly fodder for the ridiculous talking heads who have taken the place of real journalists. What is supposed to matter is that the legitimate, representative, legal institutions have already decided it’s the law, it’s constitutional, and it’s illegal to try and use the poor as human shields because some don’t like it. The legitimate, representative, legal institutions that comprise our “shining city on a hill” of democracy and the ones that we elected in fair and open elections.
Gosh, if only we had one of those. Not to compare the two in any way, but neither Jesus nor Ronald Reagan would be welcomed by the Republicans of today.
Republicans Don’t Even Bother to Pretend to Care What Americans Want
I am certainly not an authority on the economics of where health care is going to end up, so I don’t pretend to know whether the Affordable Care Act is in due course going to be good or bad for the United States. I am, however, very happy that it will help poor, uninsured Americans get access to doctors, hospitals and medicine formerly unattanable.
But I also recognize that, at this point, what I think—or for that matter, what you think–doesn’t matter. The Affordable Care Act passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by the president. It was confirmed by the Supreme Court—not that the Supreme Court is any great shakes these days either . The president, who sponsored the health-care reform, was even sent back to the White House after an election during which that reform was the major topic of debate for pete’s sake.
Obamacare is the law, as confirmed by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our political system. A portion of one of those branches is not now legally or morally empowered to change that law by holding other parts of the government hostage, no matter how strongly its members or their constituents feel.
So how then, is it possible that so many Americans, including some who have been elected to Congress, no longer understand, nor care about this principle, which is essential to our political system and vital to the execution of actual democracies? I’ll say it again in case anyone missed it:
—Democracy is not designed to reflect majority opinion. It is designed to filter majority opinion through legitimate institutions and to translate it, through agreed upon procedures, into policy—
We Say We Don’t Care What Other Countries Think of Us
Oddly, lots of people outside the United States understand just how strange this debate has become. A couple of days ago, a friend of mine from Israel emailed me, and somewhere in the middle of her narrative she “mentioned” that it was “Impressive how everyone in the US follows the law even in the face of extreme political vandalism by an irrational fringe. Like those in Egypt.”
Now, I think she meant this comment ironically, but actually, she was right. But since most Americans, even irrational Americans, no longer use violence to achieve their goals, and because this process is still— barely — taking place within the confines of those institutions– and because the protagonists at least observe the language — if not the spirit — of the law, the result is abnormally nonviolent. I guess that is impressive, but it is a pretty damn narrow achievement.
Make no mistake, Americans are paying a high price for this week’s events. But the cost of shutting down the federal government, for a few days or even a few weeks, pales in comparison to the damage done to the credibility of the United States abroad — and the credibility of democracy itself.
Republicans have already robbed us of our belief in capitalism by becoming sock puppets to the wealthy donors unleashed by the Mediocre Court Justices under John Roberts, Citizens United , and by subsidizing the wealthiest corporations in the world instead of providing avenues for education, innovation and entrepreneurial dreams. Now they’re robbing us of our democracy by allowing a few radical sock puppets to shut down our entire government because they couldn’t get their way legally, or constitutionally.
That’s right RWNJs, nowhere in the Constitution does it say you get to throw tantrums because you don’t like a particular law. You’re the ones ignoring the Constitution. How’s it feel?
Harvey A. Gold