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At least some people are beginning to treat Republican hostage-taking as as the ridiculous spectacle as it is. Would that everyone did.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that he was surprised House Republicans didn't throw birthers a bone in their list of demands on the debt limit.

“The only thing I didn’t see was a birther bill attached to it," Carney quipped during the White House press briefing.

Given that Republicans have demanded defunding Obamacare, delaying Obamacare, approving the Keystone pipeline and the return of the Lawrence Welk show in exchange for doing their Basic Job of Keeping the Government Running, that was probably just an oversight.

The notion that the debt ceiling or the Basic Job of Keeping the Government Running are things to be bartered for various conservative pipe dreams is a ridiculous notion on its face. It should never have been taken seriously the first time, and treating it as anything other than high farce during any of the other times should be considered political and journalistic malpractice. Is there really, truly a serious debate over whether or not we should overturn health care reform laws in exchange for not shutting the federal government down? Is this something with equally valid "pro" and "con" arguments? Of course not; the "pro" argument so patently silly—such a gross abuse of power and/or basic legislative insanity—that it should brand advocates as zealots, or as con men.

The fundamental problem with an argument that the government ought to cease to run at all unless the minority party is able to dictate the terms by which is runs is that it would very obviously result in no functional ability to govern at all. First the deficit was the existential crisis. Then the deficit got better, and it was Obamacare. Since Obamacare won't be going away despite the current tantrum, the same group has been considering moving on to the Keystone pipeline or other things as the existential issue that requires the entire federal government to shut down this time around. We're still under sequester, the doomsday button that rational people assured us no legislator would ever press because it would be Amazingly Stupid, primarily because the hostage-takers have not been able to stop quarreling amongst themselves long enough to even decide what the ransom for lifting it would be.

The issue here is not any of the particular ransoms, whether it be crippling certain agencies or certain programs or bringing Lawrence Welk back from the dead because these kids today don't know what real music sounds like. The issue is that the very premise of causing widespread economic or structural chaos to one's own country in exchange for a sternly demanded something should be, ought to be, treated with revulsion. If you don't treat it with revulsion, you are quite possibly a terrible person. Barter, horse trade, run vicious ads against the other side, hold out for your personal helping of pork—fine. But "we will not allow the government of the United States to operate at all unless our demands are met" is a super villain threat from a comic book, not an at-this-point-constant legislative maneuver to be pondered over by glassy-eyed journalists as a plausible response to, heaven forfend, one of two parties finding themselves in the minority.

Shutting down the government because of reasons is a "radical" move. Debate it as much as you want, but threatening government shutdown on an annual basis if a varying menu of demands are not met is by definition an extremist position. It's also an untenable one, because if it becomes the norm for the minority party from here on in we can expect nationwide shutdowns of government services on a regular, ever-increasing basis. It would be very, very helpful if all of the professional politics-watchers did us the bare favor of pointing out that, obsessive political ambitions of the adherents aside, ransoming basic government services is an extraordinarily damaging thing. There seems to be little that would be as un-American as attempting to inflict economic harm on America for naked political ends; by what logic can you treat such people as serious voices in a national debate, or treat their demands as anything other than extremist?

Anyone who encourages these people should be shunned. Shunning isn't done nearly enough these days, and we should really bring it back.

Originally posted to Hunter on Thu Sep 26, 2013 at 02:56 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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