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The Milton Measure

Point/Counterpoint: Tea Party at Fault for Government Shutdown

by on Friday, October 25th, 2013

(the counterpoint to this article can be seen here.)

The political sentiments of the past half-decade have left very few Americans ignorant of the polarization of our government. Pundits and politicians from every media outlet and major governing body have taken as fact the notion that our country is polarized.

Cynics and journalists suggest that this polarization is somehow symptomatic of our increasingly radical politics, that our country is in shambles, that we lack the unity that has guided us since the Second World War. They blame our frequent and successive crises on the ideological disconnect between Democrats and Republicans. They condemn both sides for the current state of our politics.

But the pundits are wrong. The country’s ideological divisions are no greater now than they were last week or last month or last year. In every era, Americans have voiced opinions from the far left, the far right, and everywhere in between. Polarization in previous decades has never involved only fringe groups. Discontent often spreads across the nation, such as in the Rodney King Riots of 1991, which exposed massive civil unrest and basic social division after a decade of productive policy.

Our nation’s problem today is government inaction, but its cause is not widespread polarization amidst American citizens. Rather, our crisis arises from a simple and isolated problem in the American political landscape: division within the ranks of the Republican Party.

The Democratic Party doesn’t routinely show any radical leftism, and therefore is not particularly divided. Despite the Republicans’ use of Obamacare to portray the President as radical, the proposal is the most right-wing attempt to solve a health care crisis ever seen in the Western world. Additionally, the Democratic Party has held a mostly united front behind the President for all of his tenure. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have kept the party together with no radical dissent on issues of importance, and the party is stronger because of it. Make no mistake, while very leftist Democrats are in Congress–many from our home state–such men and women support realistic leaders and do not submit to blind idealism.

On the other hand, the Republican Party, especially its Tea Party members, lack a basic understanding of pragmatic governing strategies and the actions of the Speaker of the House are dictated by an extreme, sizeable wing at the far right of the political spectrum.

Division in the Republican Party is destroying the productive capacity of Congress. John Boehner is neither a vindictive nor stupid politician. He understands how to negotiate and did so quite effectively with Obama in 2011 before exterior forces intervened. However, the sheer volume of Tea Party members and the power of leaders such as Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, sway the base GOP voting bloc in the house and dictate the direction of the party’s national policy. Boehner’s private desire to keep the speakership of the House drives him to continually appease the Tea Party.

More than twenty moderate House Republicans would have supported a “clean” continuing resolution, with no attempts to amend the Affordable Care Act, that the Senate passed. With these votes, the government shutdown could have ended after five days. However, this rare example of bipartisanship proved pointless when Speaker Boehner sided with the most conservative members of his party, saying that he would not put the bill on the floor unless Obama was willing to fully concede on the health care law.

Many Congressional Republicans did not want the government to shut down. While they objected to the Affordable Care Act and weighed their views on that issue against those on a government shutdown. Let’s be frank: the Tea Party Republicans are absolutely extreme and follow a pure, unadulterated ideology of fringe conservative values. These many fringe members do not follow the example of their more level-headed leaders. Lowly Republican members so woefully overestimate their importance, they believe their vote on a government shutdown will save America from a demonic abyss.

The Republicans’ refusal to listen to the sanity of John Boehner or John McCain precipitated the shutdown. The division of the Republican Party and the empowerment of a stupid few held the livelihoods of government workers hostage.

In simple, metaphorical terms, if you’re brawling on the edge of a cliff, you don’t ask yourself how hard you can punch the other guy. You ask why the hell you are even on the edge of a cliff in the first place.

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Posted by on Oct 25 2013. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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