COLUMN: Refractory partisanship caused government shutdown
From the left
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 21:10
It is my sincere hope that by the time you are reading this article, the government shutdown is a thing of the past and the debt ceiling crisis has been successfully resolved. I hope national parks are reopened for business, the mandatory furlough for government employees has come to an abrupt end and an international financial meltdown has been averted by smart leaders from both parties making tough choices that will ultimately save our nation.
I’m at a disadvantage. At the time this column is being written, I don’t know how the story is going to turn out. But I do have a few thoughts on the buildup of events that got us to this point of crisis, teetering between a prosperous, stable future and — well, the alternative.
Somewhere in the recent history of our political culture, an insidious idea took root that “compromise” is a dirty word and bipartisanship is a sign of weakness. Republicans and Democrats started perceiving each other not as the opposition, but as the enemy. When an idea was proposed by one party made it instantly, irrationally and irrevocably anathema to the other party. Capitol Hill is playing a vicious high-stakes game of poker where the chips are the global economy, the fiscal integrity of the U.S. government and the homes and jobs of the American people.
As much as this asinine behavior frustrates me, I’m going to skip the warm and fuzzy “kumbaya” speech. I actually don’t believe the solution is just for everyone to “just get along.” Disagreement is and always has been a lynchpin of a healthy democracy. Our Congress should be having healthy and heated debates about every action taken by our government. In fact, the poorest decisions — like the Iraq War — often happen precisely when there is a glaring lack of serious discussion over an idea’s merits.
But let me be crystal clear: there is a critical difference between disagreement — which is healthy and constructive for democracy — and altogether refusing to play ball if you don’t like something.
Responsible congressional leaders play by the rules of the system. They understand when you win an election, you get to spearhead the policies you think the American people need and want. When you lose an election, you have to lick your wounds and reevaluate your policies.
Responsible leaders also understand the value of bipartisanship — forging policies that embody the best ideas of both parties. They understand if you really disagree with something, you fight it the proper way: Get the votes in Congress, win the next election, take the case to the Supreme Court. If all proper means of recourse fail, sometimes you have to suck it up and face it: You lost this round. Move on.
Mainstream Republicans in Congress get the importance of playing by the rules. Tea Party Republicans do not. And it is this faction that has decided that it’s fine to hold the entire U.S. government hostage over a policy, Obamacare, that they just don’t like — even though it’s been upheld in Congress and by the Supreme Court. That’s not disagreement. That’s flagrant, inexcusable selfishness.