By Henry Blodget
Over the past few weeks, along with many other Americans, we have occasionally expressed frustration with a small percentage of the people elected to represent us in Washington. Namely, the “Tea Party” Republicans who just shut down the government. Importantly, our frustration has not been with the Republican Party as a whole. When we disagree with policies advocated by either political party, we say so and explain why, and we do disagree with some of the policies championed by the GOP. But we disagree with some policies championed by the Democrats, too, and we’re glad we live in a system with different points of view and checks and balances.
But “checks and balances” is not what’s going on here. What’s going on here is that the United States government has been hijacked by a group of extremists who believe that their view of one pet issue is so “right” that it justifies shutting down the entire U.S. government in protest.
This shutdown, importantly, is not just symbolic. It is forcing hundreds of thousands of Americans to stop working, inconveniencing millions of Americans who depend on government services, hurting the already fragile economic recovery, and disgracing the country in the eyes of the world.
It is not “partisan” to point out how outrageous and anti-American this behavior is. If a group of extremist Democrats shut down the government over one of their pet issues—gun control, for example, or a non-poverty minimum wage, or universal health care—the country would be justifiably outraged. And what the “Tea Party” Republicans are doing is no different.
Yes, the “Tea Party” Republicans don’t like Obamacare. And, yes, Obamacare is far from perfect. (We have plenty of frustrations with it ourselves.) But the way to change laws you don’t like is not to shut down the government at the expense of the entire country. The way to change laws you don’t like is to persuade Americans that the laws are bad, build a consensus in Washington, and then change the laws.
Frustrations with Obamacare, by the way, aren’t the exclusive property of “Tea Party” Republicans. Lots of Americans would prefer a basic national health care system to Obamacare. And they would certainly prefer it to the terrible status quo championed by the “Tea Party.” (The U.S. spends vastly more on health care than any other country in the world—and our overall health isn’t even close to the top of the charts.) But, unlike the “Tea Party,” those who would prefer basic health care insurance for all Americans aren’t shutting down the government to protest the fact that they don’t have it. They’re working within the system.
The “Tea Party” Republicans like to present themselves as brave revolutionaries—a heroic band of modern-day colonists who are standing up to the tyranny of an oppressive government. They like to think of themselves as the 21st Century version of John Adams or Paul Revere.
The brave colonists who stood up to the English king in the 1770s were protesting something very specific: Taxation without representation. The “Tea Party” Republicans, and the small minority of American voters who support them, are not the victims of taxation without representation.
The “Tea Party” Republicans are taxed, yes, but they are also very much represented. They have made their arguments to the nation, and the nation has listened and disagreed with them. And now that the “Tea Party” Republicans have hijacked the U.S. political system to advance their own selfish pet cause, they are arguably way too represented.
To be clear: The “Tea Party” Republicans are no longer even creating a pretense that their anti-American behavior is about debt or government spending—the issues they staked their last hijacking campaign on. Now, the “Tea Party” hijacking is based solely on their dislike of one law that many other Americans think doesn’t go far enough.
America is a democracy. In democracies, people disagree about issues. They disagree, they make their best arguments, and then they do their jobs and move on. The “Tea Party” Republicans aren’t doing that. They’re disrupting and disgracing the entire country over a single pet cause that America has already voted into law. That’s not heroic. It’s not democratic. And, despite what the “Tea Party” Republicans want you to think, it’s also not patriotic.
See also: OBAMA TO REPUBLICANS: MOVE ON