Would I Have Supported The Government Shutdown?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Well, the government is down to life support at this point, and the only people happy about it seem to be Tea Party members.  The rest of the world sees this as a massive dysfunction of our politics, but the dyed-in-the-wool conservatives look at this rebellion against a Congressional vote, an electorial referendum, and a Supreme Court ruling as a noble stance.  Obamacare will ruin America if it’s passed.  Nothing is more important than stopping this hazardous and poorly-engineered law.  Thus, they’re pulling out all the stops to shut this down.
…which is really what I wanted when Iraq and the Patriot Act went on the table. I bashed the spineless Democrats for rolling over to Dubya, was infuriated that they didn’t put up any major resistance to what turned out to be legitimately terrible intel and lawmaking (provided, may I remind you, largely by Republicans), and felt impotent as the Dems donned their patriot flags and went along with it.
In fact, the one guy who didn’t flow with the crowd wound up being President.  And though he turned out to be almost every bit the warmaker and privacy-destroyer that Bush was, the fact that he refused to support Iraq was a major component in him getting elected.
So what if the Democrats had some blood in them, and had forced a government shutdown in the Senate?  Would I have been cheering?
I know I would have, at least initially.  It would have felt good to see my guys making a big fuss about how awful the Patriot Act was, and to not fund a damn dime until Bush and company told us exactly where all their intel was coming from.  It would have been a deeply unpopular move, but in retrospect it would have been the right thing – to bring the focus to the American people.  And doubtlessly, every Republican in the world would have called the Democrats terrorists (which, you know, is a term they bristle at when they’re dismantling the government and literally killing children with their holdups), and talked about how unpatriotic they all were, and I don’t doubt they would have gotten a free pass from the media.
Yet as time went on, and the costs of the shutdown became apparent – my friends out of work, the damage it’s doing to the next generation of government (remember when getting a government job meant bad pay in exchange for security? that’s gone), the hurt poor, the threat of defaulting on loans – I’m positive I would have backed off.  Because there’s two things in this:
1)  Holding our breath and shutting everything down to stop this war would be, in some ways, more costly than the war itself.
2)  Even if we could shut everything down, regrettably, 90% of the country backs this thing, and assuming the resolution had been passed to go to war, legally we’re looking at what America wants, and America should have it.
Because yeah, I disliked the Iraq war.  But despite the constant conservative whining, government is not about getting everything you wanted.  It’s about pooling resources to get some of what you wanted, making compromises for much of the rest, and enduring a couple of really odious things that are popular and may even be vital.  Yeah, you’re not thrilled about birth control being handed out on your dime; I’m not thrilled about drone strikes being handed out on mine.  But the deal with, you know, democracy is that we all vote on it.  It’s the will of the people, not the will of one person.
And there are times when the minority rights should be protected, no question.  But when all the legal hoops have been passed on multiple occasions, that’s actually what democracy is.  What you’re doing is actually the opposite of democracy, shutting down everyone’s votes until you get your way – and maybe that’s morally necessary at times, but don’t call it “Constitutional” or “Democratic” or anything like that.  It’s violating the oath and the intent of your office to try to armwrestle people into submission.
The will of the people has been expressed through the mechanisms of the people.  Now you’re exploiting loopholes and refusing to pass a clean CR bill to get your way.  If that had happened with Iraq, I probably would have been morally behind them, as I would have seen the stopping of the Iraq war as a good and just cause.  (Which, really, the post-invasion havoc, the lessening of American political power, and the drag on our economy all has only proven to be not nearly worth the cost of taking down one repugnant dictator.  It’s like burning down your house to rid yourself of a bedbug infestation.)  I would have at least appreciated the intent behind the shutdown.
Ultimately, though, I would have been against the shutdown as going too far.  Yes, we could have done it.  But we’d made our point.  We had raised the issue of the Iraq war 40 times in the Senate and had it shut down every time by the House, and at this point it’s not the House that’s the problem, it’s our refusal to do what the Democrats ultimately did in real life – say, “This is a shit sandwich, but how can we refine it so that it works as best as we can make it?”
Because no, I don’t like the Iraq war and the Patriot Act.  The way this works is not to hold my breath until I turn blue; it’s to convince people how awful this is in the next round of elections, and get enough voters on my side that the government has no choice but to transform it bit by bit into something functional.  But until then, I make these ugly laws work to the best of my ability, because my job is to keep the country running smoothly, not to punish people for poor decisions.
So I wouldn’t have.  As I don’t now.  As does most of America, and unfortunately, given that the Republicans’ avowed and open strategy is not to negotiate with Obama until he caves on Obamacare, the blame for this mess can be laid squarely at the feet of the Republicans.

1 Comment

  1. Jamie
    Oct 4, 2013

    “The will of the people has been expressed through the mechanisms of the people.”
    Really? I mean, most people agree on Obamacare, especially if you don’t call it that and just tell them what it does. But how many people really voted for the guy who fucking studied Constitutional Law so that he could basically ignore all that shit once he was in office? (See: drone strikes, domestic spying, and surely something else starts with a d but I’m not done with breakfast yet so fuck nice alliteration)
    This just isn’t something that bares more than passing resemblance to a democracy. And I think that’s getting more obvious every day.
    I don’t have a solution, but in the meantime I’d like to propose that we follow South Korea’s lead and have more fistfights in Congress (hmm, did they get around to voting themselves allowed to carry guns because ‘yay guns’? Could really boost the C-SPAN ratings). Also, they must make corporate campaign contributions apparent by having these fist fights with NASCAR suits full of logos.

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