In retrospect, we should have seen this coming. We live in a country where the population and its government seem to grow more polarized with each passing day. We don’t know how to talk to each other without shouting and we aren’t willing to listen to anyone who is not parroting our own beliefs back to us. Maybe it was inevitable that all of that discord would eventually cause our government to grind to a halt.
As I write this column, the government is (partially) shut down and the two parties aren’t even meeting to talk about a resolution. They are just taking turns mouthing off to the media, each side claiming they are the reasonable ones and pointing the finger of blame at the other party.
Who’s really to blame for this mess? Is it the Democrats or the Republicans? Or is it a case of our president failing to show effective leadership? Maybe responsibility should be laid at the feet of voters who keep reelecting the same morons and then complaining about how sorry they all are. Personally I think the answer is all of the above.
Opinion polls seem to indicate that the Republicans are getting most of the blame for the shutdown, even though those same polls indicate that a majority of us agree with them about Obamacare not being the greatest thing ever.
I think the reason the GOP is getting hammered over this is that they had three years to derail Obamacare and couldn’t get it done either through the normal legislative process or at the ballot box. Shutting down the government after they failed to get voters to throw Obama out of office or retake a majority in the Senate after campaigning against Obamacare looks like a desperate move by a party that seems to be in an increasing state of disarray.
Of course the Republicans are pleasing their conservative base by taking on the signature legislation of that left-wing Great Satan Obama. I’ve been following the posts of Rep. Austin Scott, the congressman who represents my voting district, and he racks up numerous “likes” and positive comments any time he posts about his anti-Obamacare votes.
I am sure that Rep. Scott will cakewalk to re-election in his carefully drawn GOP-friendly district, just like most of the Republicans in the House will do no matter how long the government is shut down. They know how to play to their base.
But as people much smarter than me have observed, they could be doing major damage to their prospects for retaking a majority in the Senate next year or winning the White House in 2016 with their actions right now. So the nonsense going on now may be what we get for the next decade or so unless something happens to change the game in a significant way.
What kind of change would shake things up? Defaulting on our debt might do it. There are varying opinions on what a default would mean to the average American, and they range from very serious to horrifying. Imagine what happened to Greece, for example, but with no one to bail us out.
In such a scenario, a whole new reality could set in and no one can predict what would happen. Based on what we know about human nature, it certainly seems possible that all the hateful speech that is flying back and forth between the left and right could devolve into violence. Desperate people do desperate things.
I hope that doesn’t happen and I don’t think we’ve gone over the brink just yet. But I think it would help if we stopped rewarding bad behavior by patting our representatives on the back for “standing up for their principles no matter what” instead of recognizing the reality of our divided government and put a higher premium on being pragmatic and working toward compromise.
Maybe I’ll post that thought on Facebook and see how many “likes” I get.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.