Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Monday, April 11, 2011

Private good, Public bad

I think E.J. Dionne really hits it out of the park here:

During a Tea Party rally near the Capitol last Wednesday — “rally” being generous for a gathering of a few hundred people — Rep. Mike Pence, the Republican fire-eater from Indiana, declared that if Senate Democrats refused to accept “a modest down payment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say, ‘Shut it down!’ ”

And the crowd erupted, lustily and joyfully: “Shut it down! Shut it down!”

As the shouting persisted, it became clear that the government of the most powerful country in the world was being held hostage by a band of fanatics who (1) represent a very small proportion of our population; (2) hate government so much that they relished the idea of closing its doors, no matter the cost; and (3) have neither respect nor patience for the normal democratic give-and-take between competing parties and points of view.

In no serious country do threats to shut down the government become a routine way of doing business. Yet in our repertoire of dysfunction, we are on the verge of adding shutdown abuse to abuse of the filibuster in the Senate...

The vast majority of Americans oppose shutdowns. They do not share the aggressive antagonism toward government that is distorting our politics. Unless Obama gives voice to this sensible sentiment, we will face more episodes like this one. For if government is turned into something evil, no one has an obligation to stewardship of its institutions. Recklessness in pursuit of political victory becomes a virtue. Indifference to those who are served by or work in government becomes a badge of honor.

In those Tea Party shouts of “Shut it down,” the “it” drips with contempt. We cheer when drug dens or terrorist havens are shut down. There should be no glee over shutting down our government. Threatening the functioning of the public sphere is not an acceptable tactic in a democracy.

For Obama, it is not good enough to cast himself as the school principal scolding competing congressional gangs. He needs the courage to defend the government he leads. He needs to declare that he will no longer bargain with those who use threats to shut down the government or force it to default on its debt as tools of intimidation. We’re all a bit weary of Obama telling everyone to be grown-ups, but this would be the grown-up thing to do.

The fascinating question here is why are the teahadists themselves not more cautious about inviting anarchy? As wealthy people with something to lose, shouldn't they desire some sort of stability and security in the U.S.? The answer may lie in a compelling myth which is mostly unavailable to our friends in Europe and elsewhere. Americans, so the mythology goes, are strong, rugged individualists who can solve their own problems. The only kind of social or political organization required is that which they imagine happening in the Wild West: an occasional forming of a posse to kill Apaches or Mexicans. A positive spirit of cooperation is seen as weakness, unless it emerges as a rally to eliminate a "foreign threat." Cowboys killing Indians has been replaced by "Christians" defeating "Islamofascists." The truly bizarre aspect of this world-view is that it can be held by bigots who have never been west of Pennsylvania, and have never done anything more "independent" than change the furniture in the insurance office they inherited from Grandpa.


trankote7 said...

I really think that the Texas disaster has to be featured more in out political discussions. The far-right has gotten everything they want (low taxes, deregulation, creationism in schools, etc.)and the state is broke with a declining standard of living.

Cletis L. Stump said...

Brilliant summary paragraph, Ulysses. I like the way you take your quill annd stick it right up the...pretentions of these fools. Alo, I agree with your Al Gore assesment from Pete's post at my place. Also again, I just posted this comment at Motivated's place. I have almost had it with our "fearless" leader. "Motivated, as I have written at TP, if Barack "The Less Than Bold" Obama doesn't want to lead and fight for the American people he should not seek a second term."

Motivated In Ohio said...

This is a sorry sight. I just posted an editorial, on the endgame of the Republicans, with no jobs, no healthcare and a gun in every hand, stable or not.