Houston, we have a problem. A problem bigger than you realize. As week 1 of the government's partial shutdown has come and gone and we are closing in on week 2, I'm surprised that no one has discussed Thomas Friedman's October 1st piece in the New York Times titled 'Our Democracy Is At Stake'.
"President Obama is not defending health care. He’s defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him."There has been a lot of questioning as to why would a minority of the minority party hold hostage the whole government of the United States for the sake of its extremist ideology. Yes, John Boehner is weak and the Tea Party is certifiable. Yes it makes no sense to shut down the government over a law that has been passed previously by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court. Yes it's pathetically amusing that the Tea Party, frustrated over the President's and Democratic Senate's new hard line stance, are now confused over what their next move should be -- because after all, they won't be 'disrespected'! They must get something out of this -- even though they don't have a clue as to what that something must be.
Want to know why the shutdown -- and the coming debt-ceiling fight -- will be so difficult to resolve? Just ask Marlin Stutzman, a conservative congressman from Indiana.Yes, it may be about pride and politics for an ignorant Congressman who doesn't know what he has gotten himself into, but Thomas Friedman has a more sobering and ominous assessment that I think it's high time we all pay serious attention to because it's about our very way of governance for the foreseeable future.
“We’re not going to be disrespected,” he told the Washington Examiner's David Drucker. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
Stutzman is right. The fight over the shutdown has become unmoored from any particular policy demands the GOP believes it can secure. It's become an issue of pride and politics. At this point, Republicans simply need something so they can tell themselves, and their base, that they didn't lose. They don't know what that something is, exactly. But it needs to be something.
You need to read this over the squiggle.
“I think Wall Street can have an influence. CEOs around the country can have an influence,” President Obama said Wednesday in an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood. “This is going to have a profound impact on our economy, their bottom line, employees and shareholders unless we start seeing a different attitude around that faction of Congress.”Not only should Wall Street be concerned, but Main Street and every street in-between.
“I think this time it’s different,” Obama said in the interview. “I think they should be concerned.”
How in hell did we get to this place and why exactly is it different this time than shutdowns in the past? Friedman lays it out straight:
What we’re seeing here is how three structural changes that have been building in American politics have now, together, reached a tipping point — creating a world in which a small minority in Congress can not only hold up their own party but the whole government. And this is the really scary part: The lawmakers doing this can do so with high confidence that they personally will not be politically punished, and may, in fact, be rewarded. When extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules — namely majority rule and the fact that if you don’t like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can’t just put a fiscal gun to the country’s head — then our democracy is imperiled.Emphasis mine.
And why do these renegades feel so very insulated? They feel so emboldened because of the super majority Congressional districts drawn up by GOP-led state governments. They feel so emboldened because they don't have to depend on Wall Street corporate money anymore. Thanks to that dreadful 'Citizens United' Supreme Court decision, the financial coffers have been opened to pour in unlimited funds by known and unknown donors anywhere in this country for any reason. Coupled with complicit media saturation of single pitched ideology that largely goes unchallenged and undebated, we now have the perfect storm of a Civil War being fought without having to fire a single gun shot (although there are those who would want to do just that).
It goes without saying that we are in dangerous times. This is no joke and Boehner is right about one thing: this is not a game.
These “legal” structural changes in money, media and redistricting are not going away. They are superempowering small political movements to act in extreme ways without consequences and thereby stymie majority rule.This is our very lives and democracy at stake. This is a bunch of loons, ruled by their elitist overlords who have now pulled off a strategy that has been years in the making. Make no mistake about this: this was planned.
After Republicans won only 48 percent of all votes cast for the House in 2012 but 54 percent of the seats, it’s no secret that the party enjoys the huge built-in structural advantages in the chamber that Democrats had going for them decades ago. In a January memo, veteran GOP pollster Bill McInturff observed, “If you began your career as a Republican trying to win the House in the 1970s and 1980s, you would adopt, as I do, the borrowed adage, ‘There’s no crying in redistricting.’ ” The current unprecedented geographic concentration of Democratic voters was compounded by the 2010 wave election that gave Republicans unprecedented power in state legislatures to redraw political boundaries. Combined, these two demographic developments cast doubt on whether even a 2006-size wave would enable Democrats to win control of the House at any point this decade.Emphasis mine.
For a generation, at the expense of billions of dollars and armies of brilliant minds, America's political parties have cunningly divided most of the country into ideological preserves. It serves their purposes: after multiple rounds of ornate gerrymandering, of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, fewer than 1 in 5 is truly competitive on election Day. Republicans speak to Republicans, Democrats to Democrats, the hard right and hard left comfortably cushioned from any obligation to reach out to anyone — leaving the rest of the country with no one to speak to them, or for them.Well, the answers to how it came to this and how we got here are now clear. The Time Mag's piece predicts that it will only get worse.
So the question now is how we right this ship. There's this thing called the Bell Curve and if you are into science and stats, you know that it's the most common type of distribution for a variable.
The largest part of that curve is where the rest of the country is, no matter what party they are in. The narrow outer edges of the curve are where the puritanical ideologists live.
What's over that curve (that you can't see) are the strings of the puppet masters who uses their vast financial resources to manipulate the curve at their pleasure. Because unlike what John Boehner says, it is a game to them. They take no side really because they only care about their own side and that's not on the curve.
So what do we do.
First, we recognize the game that's being played on all of us. Stop thinking that some parts of the human experience cannot be that evil. They are. We can also stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. The nose bleeders who lap behind the Tea Party already provide enough gloom and doom 'rapture-me-up-Scotty' prophecies. If you are of the opinion that all things need to crash in order to start over to build a better place, rest assured that the other side feels the same way in reverse. Also in the end, all that's going to happen is that it gets worse.
Instead, we have to work to get back to some sense of normal distribution -- well, at least as normal as it can be for rest of us. It starts by the President and the Democrats in Congress not capitulating to any demands that something be given to them. Instead we must insist that these renegades honor our form of government by following it.
Then we must not wait until 2020 to do to them that they did unto us. We must appeal to independents and moderate Republicans in these very 'safe' Congressional districts that electing ignorant extremists is no way to govern and does not benefit them in the long term -- even if it means supporting moderate fiscal conservatives in these districts to help stabilize the rest of the Obama term.
Certainly if we can, we definitely must now target all vulnerable House seats and flip them to the D column and we must hold the Senate. Of course, this would be most ideal, but the battle is a difficult one and the odds are statistically not on our side.
But we can start (for example) by strongly supporting Wendy Davis for Governor of Texas and help to flip Texas purple. I think this would help us psychologically. We have the demographics on our side. It's time to start using it.
We have our work cut out for us. Lastly, and this is not going to be what some will want to hear, but we have to stick together. That means that there are going to be policy matters that you will not like. In fact, judging from past pie wars on the Kos, some of you will hate them. Yet the time for our demoralizing pity party is over because if you sit on the sidelines this time with your hands folded --- whether literally or figuratively, I guarantee you that things will continue to get worse. We all now have to suck it up and grind it out.
It's for the sake of our very democracy.