Don’t Blame Frankenstein… The Monster is Doing What Monsters Do!

Paul Evans

Can anyone seriously claim that Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, George HW Bush, or even Barry Goldwater would shutdown the US Government over a law that already been passed, signed, mostly implemented, and reviewed by the US Supreme Court?

There is a monster ravaging DC.

Hyper-partisanship feeds this monster: it was bred for partisan warfare and cannot exist without it.

This latest saga is a rational, reasonable, and possibly inevitable consequence of the mess that is modern politics in the US. We built this monster and this monster reflects our worst traits.

Look at the numbers. Less than 20 of the House Republicans hell-bent on shutting down the US Government represent districts that voted for President Obama in 2012.

Since the last shutdown the US House of Representatives has been recast. Technology has yielded great triumphs for humankind: it has also given us the tools for our own self-destruction. Gerrymandering has established structures and systems perpetuating dysfunction: the mechanics of these constructs cannot help but sustain chaos, confusion, and corruption.

Few times in history has our nation been as divided as it is now. This reality should wake us up given what we know about our history. Our Union is always at our greatest peril (from enemies abroad and at home) during times of extended political dysfunction.

And sadly, dysfunction is fast becoming the political culture of Washington DC (for in dysfunction culpability for lost opportunities can be shared).

Things have been extraordinary since we began the Iraq War. Over the years the outrageous actions of our leaders have evolved from irresponsible to outright bizarre.

Right now our US House of Representatives is holding us hostage. For the first time in history one-half of one-third of our government is demanding the functional dismantling of a policy passed, signed, and mostly implemented.

In truth, the actions of “Tail gunner” Ted Cruz and his co-conspirators are treason: the willful actions of persons pursuing policies harmful to the security and welfare of the United States of America. There is a difference between passionate advancement of partisan priorities and pushing the US Government into the abyss for personal political benefit.

Grand-standing is a nuisance, but using the power of persuasion to induce a national coma is abuse of office at the very least. Politicians have no right to play with the full faith and credit of the United States of America for any reasons - least of all for the aspirations of a self-serving caricature.

Admittedly, it is impolite for us to call these actions "treason" even though we all know it is precisely that. For too long we have allowed the worst among us to reign free from scrutiny and punishment. Rhetoric is viewed by many as merely "words" - but words matter, at least words should matter.

Unfortunately, treason appears to be an accepted practice these days, at least in DC. We are allowing it to happen – broadcast live via the internet – in the hallowed halls of Congress. For over twenty hours we tolerated Cruz and his co-conspirators the courtesy of the US Senate floor to espouse falsehoods, lies, and jaw-dropping ill-conceived historical comparisons.

We became dumber as a result of Cruz's assault upon our culture, nation, and political norms.

Tonight, we are witness to the logical, tragic conclusion of the Tea Party purge: the collapse of our capacities to govern responsibly. Internal necessities have forced Speaker Boehner to empower a small cabal within his majority coalition with extraordinary, unprecedented power in the decisions leading to our current circumstances.

Drunk with power the Tea Party did exactly what it must: sow the seeds of revolution - if not through arms then through the purposeful deconstruction of the political structures and systems that sustain our Republic.

Unlike the US President or the US Senate, the US House of Representatives is an assembly of elected “district” partisans. Thanks in large part to the nationalization of American politics we have witnessed the rise of a national party – the Democratic Party – as well as the rise of a mostly regional party – the Republican Party.

In recent elections the GOP has opted to marshal resources at the local and state levels; competitive at the national level for the Presidency, the modern GOP has enormous strength throughout the South and Southwest at the state, county, and local levels of government.

For a time the GOP appeared to be able to extend its regional blitzkrieg into the Midwest (ref: Wisconsin) but many of the initial gains made have been turned back.

It is largely a party that views government with contempt. What Reagan called, “the Problem,” has morphed into “the Enemy.” Reagan sought to stem the growth of government, not destroy it.

Once upon a time Republicans accepted the fundamental role of a government in the establishment and sustainment of society: Republicans asserted the need for a functional albeit constrained public sector.

Can anyone seriously claim that Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, George HW Bush, or even Barry Goldwater would shutdown the US Government over a law that already been passed, signed, mostly implemented, and reviewed by the US Supreme Court?

Nonetheless, after significant loses at the ballot box in 2006 and 2008 the GOP retrenched. Faced with a choice between opening the blinds and hunkering down, the GOP hunkered down.

Rejecting outreach as ideological surrender, the modern GOP sought accelerated turnout of like-minded pseudo-revolutionaries. Accordingly, they have poured gasoline on the fires of discontent and disharmony: the 2010 election gave us not only the Tea Party inspired Majority in the US House of Representatives but also Republican control of many state legislatures throughout the South and Southwest.

Compare the last shutdown to this one. Then: close to 80 Republicans in the US House represented districts that had voted for Clinton; now less than 20. The people that elected those members did so with purpose. We are a divided nation because of the dysfunction of the processes that apportion our elected leaders.

In “gerrymandered districts” the mechanics are constructed to prevent “moderate” actions through a complex web of internal and external disincentives. When there is a 10% advantage of one party over another (common in such districts) it is hard for the elected member to challenge the perspective of the community s/he is dependent upon for reelection.

Neither party is innocent on such matters. Redistricting is an art; parties throw significant talent, time, and treasure at controlling the apportionment process.

That said, since the days of Richard Armey, Tom DeLay, and Karl Rove there has been a level of Machiavellian sophistication at work in constraining the emergence of moderate leadership within the GOP (at all levels). Ironically (and predictably) the modern GOP is now hostage to its own creation: the Frankenstein that is the Tea Party.

Tea Party activists only “know” a world where compromise is weakness; Tea Party activists earnestly believe in the righteousness of their crusade.

This is the plight of our government. Whereas Boehner may wish he could negotiate with President Obama he cannot. Truth be told, he is beholden to the monster that will consume him and the GOP majority he fought hard to sustain with it.

This shutdown may last a day, a week, a month, or longer. There is no incentive for the men and women making it happen to relent; there is no “retreat” option in their playbook. It will end when sufficient pressure has been put upon Boehner by the 1% that will lose significant portions of their prosperity in a Wall Street collapse that a coalition of Traditionalist Republicans and Democrats vote to break the deadlock.

Abandoned by the national leadership - as they must be for the US Government to survive - the Tea Party will be forced to confront the cold, harsh realities associated with failure. There will be a bloody civil war within the GOP that may well result in a final split.

A reckoning is coming. If we resolve this manufactured crisis over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, then there will be another over the debt-ceiling or something else because the Tea Party needs the fight to sustain its crusade.

Absent a crisis the Tea Party must confront the irrationality of its own idealism. Therefore, it is rational (albeit in an alternative reality kind of rationalism) for Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and the other Zealots to use all necessary means to sustain the uncertainties associated with chaos and conflict.

This shutdown is not a surprise. The surprise is that it took this long to happen.

Hold onto your hats and watch the show. Now freed from the responsibility of compromising for the good of the country, President Obama can fight the hostage-takers on his own terms.

The nation knows the “black hats” and the “white hats” – even if the participants remain unclear.

Our Republic will survive this latest challenge and we will become better, stronger as a result of the necessary frustrations of the next few hours.

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