Why are we going to have a government shutdown, Daddy?
Because people who hate the healthcare reforms of the Affordable Care Act think they can stop ACA by threatening a government shutdown. If that doesn’t work, they are planning to threaten the entire world economy by defaulting on U.S. government bonds, probably the foundation of the world economy.
But isn’t the ACA a law, enacted by the process defined in the U.S. Constitution?
Yes it is.
So, a majority people want the law? I mean, Congress enacted the ACA, President Obama signed it, and President Obama was re-elected.
Not only was ACA properly enacted as a law, and basically twice accepted by the American people, but it’s widely held that the bill will be good for all Americans, by ultimately reducing the costs of healthcare and creating a healthier citizenry.
So, how can a minority do this?
There are two answers (each with two parts):
- In the Senate, the Republicans have used an astonishingly high number of filibusters or filibuster threats to stop the rule of the majority.
- In the House of Representatives, a small number of radicals are holding other Republicans hostage by threatening their incumbency.
- (1b) is possible because of redistricting, which has
- created incumbents who are almost impossible to defeat, except in primaries by more extreme candidates; and
- enabled Republicans to maintain control of legislatures at the state and federal level without a majority of votes.
But isn’t democracy supposed to be rule by the majority?
It’s the rule of the majority, and the rule of law, which at bottom is the U.S. Constitution (the law about making laws).
As it now stands, the Republican Party is thwarting the will of the majority – on a number of issues – and they are subverting the constitution – a characteristic of Republicans since at least Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.
How can this happen?
Well, the watchdogs of democracy are now lapdogs. How many times did you see the word filibuster in your newspaper? (Hint: It was a tiny fraction of the times Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wielded that weapon.)
But more importantly, many Americans are disinclined to believe just how bad the Republicans are. Many others take the frankly stupid view that “they all do it.” I won’t pretend that Democratic politicians are angels, but between the filibusters of Senate Republicans and the fiscal subversion of the House Republicans, we have an assault on our way of government that has no precedent in modern memory. Together with the warping effects of Republican gerrymandering, we have a sick democracy on our hands.
Will everything be all right?
Not for some time, I’m afraid.