It's not really that new, but it's the new reality. It's now a landscape in which the traditional give and take of political discourse no longer prevails in Washington politics. The landscape was in full view this week when all facsimile of compromise, negotiation, and cooperation between the two parties were nonexistent. Both sides claimed they wanted to talk and were ready to negotiate, but it was little more than political posturing.
Depending on one's political views, the partial government shut down was either the fault of President Obama, or the hard line conservative elements in the House of Representatives. In some respects it doesn't matter who is to blame. The fact is that it is now considered acceptable for a minority of one house of Congress to shut down the U.S. government if its partisan and unilateral demands are not accepted. In this case, the demand is that the Affordable Health Care Act be defunded and ultimately repealed.
It's happened before, of course, but this time it's different. Congress has plunged into a war zone mentality in which the primary objective is to vilify, de-legitimize, and disparage the opposing party. The immediate object is President Obama and the democrats who unilaterally enacted the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare as they have coined it. Senator Ted Cruz said as much, that Obamacare is one more major step to government dictated socialism.
The future looks ominous. Oct. 17 brings a new round of the same irrational mentality that has prevailed during the effort to enact a continuing resolution. This next time however, the consequences are draconian. Virtually every reputable economist in the country predicts that the consequences will be disastrous. Job layoffs, the shutdown of critical assistance programs to the poor and elderly, and the loss of credibility to America's financial and economic reputation throughout the world are only a few of the consequences. Yet the people responsible for the shut down are still intent on allowing the disaster to happen.
No one can estimate what the full impact of this new landscape is going to bring. It's not just this week's extortion to defund Obamacare or next weeks refusal to increase the debt limit. It's what's going to happen every time a far right minority in one house of Congress does not agree with legislation that a fully elected Congress enacted, the President signed, the Supreme Court upheld, and was vindicated by the President's election.
No one knows the full and future impact of how the economic status of America will be affected. It's a landscape that has evolved into a state of political confusion where the ideology and self serving interests of partisan legislators are more important than the well-being of America. It's a landscape where politicians are bought and paid for by special interest groups who have the money to control the political dialogue that Americans depend on to make informed decisions.
The political landscape began to change long before President Obama was elected. But it mushroomed with his election. He was viewed by conservatives as the new prophet of socialism, enemy of free market economics, and adversary to the wealthy and corporate America who were the real job creators. They believed and still do that Obama has created a populous that is more dependent on government and more unwilling to take responsibility for its own actions. They believe that this trend will only be reversed if Obama and his agenda are defeated ? at all costs.
Some polls are saying that the Republican Party will suffer the most because of the shutdown and the looming default over the debt limit. It could well happen, but there are other considerations that have come into play. These considerations could well favor the Republican Party in the years to come. They could also result in irreparable harm to the democratic process.
As a result of Republican outrage over the newly enacted Affordable Health Care act, the emergence of a militant and well funded Tea Party, and a pathetic as well as incompetent response by the Democratic Party, the Republicans gained a super-majority in the House of Representatives during the mid-term elections of 2010. The consequences of the election are profound.
The Republican super-majority was elected at the very time a reassessment of house districts was due because of population shifts identified by the census. It was time to reapportion federal legislative districts within each state to more fairly reflect population shifts. While the reapportionment process was created to insure equal representation of legislative districts, the reality of partisan politics took over and, as some would say, high jacked the process. To be fair, it was not an exclusive Republican process. The Democratic Party has been guilty of the same thing in the past.
As a result of the election we are now faced with heavily gerrymandered Republican districts where, in many cases, democrats are the majority, but the Republican Party is in firm control. It will be until the next reapportionment. These districts are heavily populated with Tea Party extremists, and will continue to exert far more power and influence than their numbers would otherwise indicate.
It's not just the gerrymandering of districts that have helped the Republicans. The Citizens United decision by a conservative Supreme Court has made it possible for billionaires to pour unlimited fund into causes that are, in reality, poorly veiled intentions to insure that the most conservative politicians are elected. They can now use the same funds to defeat political moderates or candidates who are not considered conservative enough.
This is the political landscape we are faced with if aggressive action is not taken by reasonable people to save the democratic process for all Americans.
Jack Allen lives in Roy and is a member of the Weber County Coffee Party.