With this latest GOP temper tantrum we see the depths to which a group of people are willing to sink to ensure the failure of an individual — President Barack Obama. When a bill is passed by both houses of Congress, the president signs it and it is upheld by the Supreme Court — and the candidate for president that ran against the program was rejected by the majority of voters — it’s safe to say that it’s the law. And yet, this far-right driven Republican Party rejects that notion.
When Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced, before the 2010 midterm elections, that priority number 1 for Republicans was making Barack Obama a one-term president (a sentiment that was echoed by other congressional Republicans), he gave us the prism through which most, if not all, Republican action has to be viewed. In an economic calamity unlike anything we’ve seen in about six decades, McConnell declared, President Obama, not the American people, was and is the focus.
And for that reason, we are experiencing a legislative Jonestown moment where the GOP, for the most part, is willingly committing economic suicide by drinking the shutdown kool-aid while the rest of us are held hostage.
Another shutdown from another time
The Newt Gingrich-led Republican Congress offered their version of this fiasco in 1995 and 1996. When the previous fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, 1995 – almost exactly 18 years before our current shutdown – Congress had not passed a budget. Republicans had campaigned in 1994 on a puritanical promise of slowing government growth. Having the first Republican majority in over 40 years gave them the some sort of Manifest Destiny-belief that it was perfectly fine to halt the government gears.
That proved to be a tremendous miscalculation on their part. A 1995 ABC news poll had Republicans receiving the bulk of the blame with 46 percent of respondents compared to the 27 percent that blamed President Bill Clinton. And although Clinton’s approval ratings took a hit as well, after the shutdown was over, his approval ratings had skyrocketed to the highest they had been since he won election in 1992. Bob Dole, the Republican contender for the presidency in 1996 and the Senate majority leader, carried the millstone of the shutdown around in his neck during the whole campaign and was roundly beaten at the polls.
In 1997 – viewing his image as a liability – Newt Gingrich’s own party ousted him out of the speakership in the House. We could wax nostalgic over the times when there was such a thing as a person being too radical for the Republican Party… ahh, those were the days.
As we fast-forward to the midterms of 2010 a similar dynamic took place with the Tea Party insurgency and a newly-controlled Republican House. The Cut, Cap and Spend resolution – a draconian bill even by Republican standards – passed the House. The GOP leadership knew that since this bill had little chance of passing, that their members’ votes were purely symbolic. Nevertheless, contained in the shell of this symbol is the kernel of their very real ideology.
When any group of legislators proposes making the continued segregation and concentration of wealth toward the top a quasi-constitutional right while simultaneously making deep cuts into programs that help the most vulnerable the only alternative, they have declared war on reason, justice and compassion.
A recent Pew research poll shows just how successful the GOP smear campaign has been. Although a majority of the American public blames Republicans for the current shutdown, it’s a slim majority. Thirty-nine percent say they blame Republican and 36 percent say the president is to blame – 17 percent say both are equally culpable.
The longest government shutdown that we have experienced in the U.S., was 28 days. Projections and estimates have been made that put the amount of money that will be lost at about $2.6 billion a day or approximately $55 billion if it drags on for three or four weeks.
Your pain is not my concern
So what are they saying? Your home is in foreclosure, Mr. Smith? Sorry, we can’t help you; we have a president to defeat. Lost your job, Ms. Jones? We can’t be bothered with a jobs program because easing your pain might win him political capital. Medical bills stacking up, Mr. Williams; Mrs. Carter? Obamacare may be the right answer for you, but it doesn’t do a thing for us.
They are impervious to human suffering; they are unyielding in the face of catastrophic American need.
Nihilistic appears to be the best way to describe this present band of congressional Republicans. They said the debt ceiling didn’t need to be raised… let the economy burn. And when it was raised it was only after the President paid a steep price — and the currency was the backs of the poor, working and middle class of this nation.
To be sure, the defeat of one’s political rivals is always an objective (and there is a tacit understanding that it is the objective), but in hard economic times, stifling joblessness, a pandemic of home foreclosures and several ongoing military entanglements, easing the pain and suffering of the American people should have been priority number one. In a situation that cries out for statesmen and stateswomen, we are left with hypocritical partisans.
There appears to be no sane and rational voice, in current Republican circles, that has the ear of the party whose love of country trumps any disdain they have for President Obama. Yes, to them, failing the nation pales in comparison to ensuring the failure of this president — and the lives that are damaged in the process are deemed irrelevant collateral damage.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Mint Press News’ editorial policy.