Officially, the US Civil War ended in 1865. Yet, here we are almost 150 years later, having the same ideological fight with the same emotional ingredient of a widespread, visceral hatred of the sitting president; then Lincoln, now Obama. In the latter’s case, you can toss in elements of blatant racism.
Leading the NeoConfederate Army is Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) who has vaulted to the top, largely on the basis of self-promotion. Labeled a “fraud” and “wacko bird” by members of his own party, he is none the less, adored by grassroots Tea Party members. At Cruz’ side are his “executive officers” Mike Lee (UT) and Rand Paul (KY). Marco Rubio (FL), once the brightest start in the GOP firmament, has more recently been relegated to the role of office boy, so eclipsed has he been by Cruz. Add to these four, another dozen of so other senators and you have a minority of about 16 from among the 100 seats in the Senate.
Now over to the House where you can count among Cruz’ adherents, 60 diehard Tea Party-types and more or less another 40 sympathizers. So, let’s call it an even 100 out of 435 members, and thus a second minority. But hang on, this gets worse.
Consider this: If you take the states and districts that sent these 116 (16 in the Senate and 100 in the House) individuals to Congress, and look at their respective populations, you find that they represent no better than 35-40 percent of the national total. The reality then, is that these 116 are a minority of a minority!!!
Our Constitution made ample provision for minorities to have a voice with built-in safeguards to protect them against what Madison referred to as the “tyranny of the majority”. But, we have always understood and and honored the concept that in a democracy such as ours, the majority rules, especially based on the result of elections and votes in Congress.
What the minority of a minority did to cause the recent government shutdown was to trample all over the majority rules honored tradition. Unable to achieve in a free and fair election what they fervently wanted, they held the government and our economy hostage to achieve their desired goal. From the outset, that was advertised as the repeal or defunding of Obamacare. As it became obvious that such an end was unattainable, the focus shifted to the deficit which Republicans claim to be all in favor of bringing down. Really?
Here’s a quick inventory* of the economic damage that the Tea Party-generated shut-down caused with the attendant loss of an estimated $24-26 billion from the economy. Of course, as a consequence, that will increase the deficit: Approximately one million jobs lost, another 800,000 temporarily furloughed; the shaving of .6 of one percent from the annual GDP, with global and domestic financial markets rattled, our debtors worried over our credibility, and consumer-confidence and spending undercut. Fortunately, after 16 days of this hell, saner heads prevailed. But, the nihilists are promising to do the same thing again in a few months.
How to respond to this threat? William Falk, Editor of The Week+ magazine said it best: “One of the flaws of democracy is that a small group of angry zealots can exert outsized influence….these extremists have intimidated Republican leaders, who value their own jobs more than yours. Most Americans are not intensely partisan, so when the crazies turn the government into a bar fight and the broken bottles and chairs fly, the silent majority simply duck and become chagrined spectators. Disapproval, however, may not be sufficient to end the sabotage. Perhaps it’s time for the (rest of us) to get good and mad.”
*This inventory came from an analysis conducted by the nonpartisan consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisers and was commissioned by Pete Peterson, a long-time Republican and deficit hawk.
+Falk, William; The Week, vol. 13, issue #640; Oct. 25, 2013; p. 3