The Mongers of Elite Opinion—from Providence to DC—Are Damaging our Democracy.

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I’m a big fan of the Providence Journal’s Ed Fitzpatrick.  But his column yesterday left me shaking my head, wondering if our democracy is going to survive.   

Unfortunately, Ed’s not alone. 

Newspapers across the country were festooned with painfully inept headlines that portray this shutdown as some sort of blame game exercise.  It’s enough to make you want to go Lewis Black on the nearest street corner.

Whenever I read one of these pieces, or hear a commentator wring his or her hands about how both sides are to blame for the current government shutdown, I can’t help but feel we’re a little closer to seeing this grand two hundred and thirty-seven year experiment in self-rule collapse under the weight of its own mediocrity.

Let’s think about it this way.  How would you advise a child to handle a bully?  You wouldn’t tell some poor kid to give the bully whatever he wants or some portion of what he wants in the hopes that it will make everything OK.  Because as grown-ups, we know it doesn’t work that way.

Or, as Jon Stewart so eloquently put it the other night, 

I offer a pox on both their houses when appropriate. But this is not a game of chicken. This is when someone is driving to work and there’s a car coming directly at them in their lane. That’s not a game of chicken — that’s an as*hole causing a head-on collision.

How are the Democrats to blame for this shutdown?  What have they done to bring us to this point?  Well, let’s see…they failed to give in to the demands of a wing of the Republican Party which is willing to hold the Congress and the country hostage to get a do-over on legislation that was enacted fair and square, using the tools of our democracy, back in 2010.

The President spoke this fundamental truth yesterday.  Sadly, it is a truth which many members of the media seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge.

“This Republican shutdown did not have to happen. But I want every American to understand why it did happen,” Obama said during remarks in the Rose Garden. “They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.”

Why not just call this hostage-taking what it is—a sign of a deeply dysfunctional Republican Party that is incapable of governing itself, much less helping to govern a country?  Is it really that hard?  Are folks in the media that scared of getting mail from Tea Partiers?  (Hint: pay it no mind.  They’re only watching Fox News anyway!)

Even Rhode Island’s own Joe Nocera fell into the “pox on both your houses” trap, when, in a Monday column about the shutdown mess entitled “Those Banana Republicans”, he feels compelled to wrap up his blistering attack on the current GOP leadership with this ridiculous bit of Bad Analogy Theater:

A party controlled by its most extreme faction will ultimately be forced back to the center. The Democrats learned that when Walter Mondale was losing to Ronald Reagan, and Michael Dukakis to George H.W. Bush. Now it is the Republicans who don’t seem to understand that their extreme tactics are pleasing a small percentage of their countrymen but alienating everyone else.

Damn, my head hurts just seeing that again.  I mean, you can call Walter Mondale and Mike Dukakis a lot of things, but extremists?  They were the Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachman of their age?  Please.

Mondale was Jimmy Carter’s Vice President, an old-fashioned New Deal Democrat.  Dukakis was a dull technocrat who ran a Presidential campaign that bordered on being criminally inept.  (Oh, and by the way, when Jesse Jackson is in your party and running in a primary against you, you are not the most extreme faction.  Not be a long shot.)  Neither of them did anything to damage this country that even comes close to the lunacy we are now seeing from the GOP.

They never called Ronnie Reagan a Muslim.  They never questioned his right to serve as Commander in Chief.  They never called a law that got passed on their watch unconstitutional, even after it had been declared the opposite of that by the Supreme Court.

And none of them ever beat the living daylights out of reality on regular basis the way some of these Tea Party crazies do.  Just get a load of these comments from Senator Rand (son of Crazy Uncle Liberty) Paul yesterday regarding Cruz’s recent faux filibuster on Obamacare:

You know, I think it was helpful to talk more about it.  We haven’t had a big debate about Obamacare really since it passed in Congress. And so I think it was helpful to have the debate.

Hmm…I guess he missed those 46 House votes to defund, repeal or dismantle the law.   

Lord, sometimes there just isn’t enough Guinness and Jameson’s to enable a thinking man to make sense of this crazy world.

 

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