250 million Americans stand aghast at the recklessness of the federal House of Representatives. The remaining 65 million people cheer the same behavior. The brinksmanship inherent in shuttering the national government – in threatening to default on the debts the Congress has incurred – demonstrates a level of irresponsibility that risks the nation’s existence. It is an unprecedented breach of the people’s will and trust.
No, hold on. It has happened before.
It is the echo of the first Presidential administration in the twenty-first century. It is incompetence, inflexibility, and fecklessness, given new form with the gerrymandering of districts at both the state and national levels. Historian Eric Foner recognized this debilitation in the executive branch as one of the worst examples of malfeasance in the nation’s history. As President, George W. Bush must carry the legacy of the partial destruction of two American cities on his conscience. It is a shame surpassed only by the blindness of James Buchanan and the paralysis of Herbert Hoover.
Now, the House of Representatives has dedicated itself to wreak a havoc more profound than any of the worst Presidents accomplished. The Tea Party agenda of 2010 stands revealed as a fundamental betrayal of its eighteenth century roots. Where the Boston revolutionaries took dramatic steps to build a nation, the confederate radicals of rural America want nothing less than the death of a nation. When Senator Ted Cruz breathed new life into the rhetoric of nullification over the last month, he convinced Speaker John Boehner to listen to just 80 members of the House – against the wishes of 355 representatives. Representative Jim Gerlach cannot stand for the end of the world’s full faith and confidence in the United States. Representative Jon Runyon cannot accept a betrayal of a national healthcare system that reduces the federal debt and deficit. President Obama has repaired much of the damage done by the careless abuses and neglect of the federal system between 2001 and 2009. Moderate Republicans must join with their Democratic colleagues, as they have done in the Senate, to restore civility and compromise to the people’s chamber.
The root of the dispute is the fundamental rejection of President Obama’s legitimacy as a leader and historic figure. The Tea Party ideologues have rejected any notion of responsible governance since winning control of the House in 2010. Their reflexive denial of the President drove their participation in the 2012 campaigns in districts designed to preserve their purity. They could not tolerate campaigning in races where any immigrants, young women, or people of color might enable a moderate to compete. Against the will of the people who urge compromise and progress to address the nation’s problems, a tiny plurality of the Representatives want to negate the last Presidential election, overturn both the Supreme Court and an earlier Congress, and bully the majority of the American people into compliance with their whims.
The answer to these extremists must be, as it always is, no. No, you will not nullify the Affordable Care Act. No, you will not close the government for weeks and months. No, you will not cripple the world economy with an American default. No, you will not be re-elected in 2014 if you choose to pursue this foolhardy strategy any further. And, no, the American people will never forget the depth of your slander and manipulation in pursuit of the same vision that led us into Iraq, that let Osama bin Laden walk free, that drowned the people of New Orleans, and that created the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. No.