Don’t blame this nonsense on “Washington” or “Congress”

Most of the federal government shut down at midnight, and that sucks for multiple reasons. (Beyond the basic breakdown in democratic government on display, the shutdown has cut off a few friends from their next paychecks.) But spare me the ritual outrage over the evils of “Washington” or “Congress.”

Capitol stop-sign barrierThe former is not just a political abstraction but a city of 632,323 people. Most of the residents of the District of Columbia have nothing to do with Congress, and none have voting representation there.

As for the latter, there’s a great deal to dislike in the deliberative body that meets and occasionally gets actual work done a few blocks south of Union Station. But it’s an epic feat of false equivalency to blame the shutdown on some bipartisan failure to cooperate.

One part of one party in one house of Congress made it happen. That segment of House Republicans deeply loathes the Affordable Care Act (would that all these advocates of individual liberty were also at the barricades over the NSA’s subversion of the Fourth Amendment), have already staged dozens of stunt votes against it, and yesterday led the rest of the House GOP to hold up the entire federal budget over a policy that won a mandate in two presidential elections and survived the Supreme Court’s scrutiny.

That won’t work, on account of the simple math of a Democratic majority in the Senate and the absence of a veto-proof Republican majority in the House. That’s normally a cue to compromise. So is the political reality that every minute that ACA insurance signups continue in overwhelming numbers–oh, yes, that’s one thing the government shutdown didn’t stop–Obamacare collects more constituents.

In days or weeks, I trust that enough of the House will realize this–hopefully before the true  believers there shove the country into default. In the meantime, don’t mistake those in the grip of a preexisting condition some have diagnosed as Obamacare Derangement Syndrome for the entirety of Congress, and please leave the good city of Washington right out of this.

8 thoughts on “Don’t blame this nonsense on “Washington” or “Congress”

  1. Partisan nonsense. Members of Congress are elected locally to serve the interests of local constituents. In this case, this subset of one party as you call it, was elected with the clear message to fight against the exact things they are fighting against. They will do so until they decide that doing so causes irreparable harm to the Country or they are out of options. That is called democracy and it should be celebrated. That is the expressed and specific reason that we have these minority party powers in our form of government. Life would be so much easier if Obama just had a Congress that went along with him. He doesn’t. It takes a leader to resolve that. Unfortunately, Obama, while he would make a great CEO of a think tank, is a horrible leader when he is in a role where half of those he needs to lead aren’t in awe of him. The Clinton, Gingrich, Tip example shows us how this gets resolved. Unfortunately Obama doesn’t have the chops to roll up his sleeves, get in the back room and negotiate messy solutions. It is a ridiculous example of leadership.

    • You left out the part where politicians get to pick their voters through partisan redistricting (take my state’s, please!). As for what the president can do–what can he do to negotiate with people implacably opposed to the ACA? The real absence of leadership seems to be in the House, where Boehner seems to have decided to let the Tea Party play out its hand.

      It’s his right to do so, but it’s bad for the country and eventually bad for the Republican Party. And having seen how one-party dominance worked so well as a D.C. taxpayer in the late ’90s, I don’t think that’s a great outcome either.

      • What can the President do? Now? Very little. He made a decision to spend all of the political capital that he had or could have earned to get ACA passed. From that point on, he used his popularity wave to preach to Congress and demand from Congress and to point to Congress as the fault whenever he didn’t get his way. That was the leadership strategy that he decided to pursue. He lost the respect and cooperation of Congress the minute he made the decision to play the game that way. The problem is that he burned his relationship with Congress when now the only solution is to be in the trenches with them to compromise on a solution. Once his soaring popularity wave ended he found himself with nothing to use as leverage. He has no Republican support, no red state democratic support. And no mandate from the public. He can’t do anything now. It is to late for the Clinton, Gingrich, Tip model but the fault for that is almost completely Obama’s for making the decision to risk it all with how he got ACA passed. He goes on TV and says “no one can shut the government down over political ideology.” Um, yes they can and they are. And unfortunately he has no leadership and credibility with Congress at this point to do anything about it.

  2. Oh, baloney, Jeff. The GOP has been gunning for Obama since he was reelected. It was 2009 that McConnell declared his intention to make the President a one-termer. Obama passed the ACA fair and square, got the Supreme Court to sign off, and was reelected. The only “political capital” that any President has is that the Constitution requires the branches of government to actually govern.

    The only branch that isn’t governing at the moment is the House GOP.

    • The GOP was gunning for Obama BEFORE he was reelected. There is no dispute on that. Guess what. That is called politics. Great, transformational leaders figure out ways to fight through that and get things done. Obama’s problem is that with soaring rhetoric, he sold himself to those gullible enough to believe him that he WAS that great, transformational leader. That hasn’t exactly come to be true. The reason that it hasn’t come true is the lack of Congressional cooperation. The reason there is not Congressional cooperation is he lost that chance by 1) passing the ACA and 2) not possessing a leadership instinct and method that got his hands dirty in policy negotiations with Congress. As I said, I am a moderate Republican – not to the right at all, on any issue. Personally, I find Obama to be so arrogant and preaching to the point that I can’t watch him speak. I think many in Congress feel the same way.

      Passing the ACA was legal and used tactics that our system of government permit to be used. That doesn’t mean that the method he CHOSE to pass it doesn’t hurt him with Congress. You combine that with his preaching style of leadership and public persona that he is above the sausage making in Congress and it all perpetuates his problem with Congress.

      This is textbook leadership stuff. Obama simply has no leadership skills of the kind that are needed to work with Congress. Congress has written him off and at this point doing everything they can to harm him. It’s personal now.

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