By Trevor Law
On October first the federal government will be operating without a budget; that is, assuming Congress can pass a budget and the President sign one we will have the second government shutdown in three years and we will have reached another low point in American politics. Frankly with the rise of Donald Trump I think we have officially hit rock bottom, but the Republican party has proven me wrong before on this point.
Over the past thirty years we have seen Conservatism rise to the top of the political landscape with the rise of Reagan, and two different Bush Presidencies. In 1994 we saw a Republican Congress swept into power that lasted until the 2006 elections. Today Republicans control both houses of Congress again and we are unsurprisingly in a near constant state of gridlock because of it.
Why? Why is the Republican party’s rise the reason for gridlock, doesn’t it take more than one party to cause something like this? Well normally I would agree with you but this time, this is a hell of the GOP’s making. You see way back in 1980 the Republican party decided they wanted to band together three groups. Evangelicals, Defense Hawks, and Pro-Business/anti-regulatory/anti-government groups. These groups made such a strong alliance that it caused Conservatives to be the dominate political force in this country until 2008 with the election of Barack Obama (Yes I know Clinton was President in the 90’s but he was a centrist, and had a third party candidacy pulling votes from Republicans to help him).
(for those of you who need a refresher on the Reagan Revolution)
The alliance of these groups, caused a melding of ideas that is still strongly entrenched in Conservatives to this day. In a word, it’s the idea that if you disagree with me, in some form or fashion, you are EVIL. Now I know Liberals are guilty of this too, but no where near to this same extent. For example when the President supported a free trade agreement almost his entire party fought him on this issue. The President was able to win with support from Republicans in Congress, but after the incident, things went back to normal for Democrats.
Now let’s turn the clock back to 2005 when President Bush tackled immigration reform. He was able to get a bill through the Senate with bi-partisan support but the bill promptly died in the House and since then immigration has been a hugely divisive issue within the Republican party. Can you honestly imagine any of the Republican candidates today bucking the Conservative movement as Bush did in 2005 and not being a total outcast? Jeb Bush is a hugely qualified candidate but has not done very well in the polls, while candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson are rocketing to the top. While Carson is a Conservative, Trump is…something else.
This leads us into the central problem of the party. It is built on the notion of being 100% morally right on every issue. Obviously everyone thinks they are right, but Democrats don’t live or die on every issue, nor do they see giving up something on an issue as a deep moral failing.
Many many Conservatives view government has a moral evil, something that is an artificial construct to suck rights away from people, thus any issue that expands it or any time its power isn’t restricted it is turned into a moral issue. So when a Democrat says “I think we should have a living wage.” All Conservatives hear is “I want to make the government more powerful so we can steal more of your rights.” Grover Norguist (head of Americans for tax reform) once said “the federal government should be made so small that it can be dragged into a bathtub and drowned.” This isn’t just an ideological idea, but a moral imperative. One of the big issues confronting Congress is how to pay for America’s crumbling infrastructure, Democrats want to raise revenue, but Republicans are trying to find a way to not pay for it at all. So while we are heading for a shut down and one party is trying to find a way to make the system work, another is wondering if it should exist at all. The Republicans that do decide to make the system as effective for helping people as possible are relentlessly attacked for being R.I.N.O.s.
This is the core of it: that Conservatives not only don’t wish to be a part of the system, but find it to be a moral imperative to cripple it as much as possible. So when it comes time to fund the government, it isn’t really seen as a bad thing to just let funding lapse. Who cares if the entire federal government grinds to a halt over anything, is shouldn’t exist anyway. There is no reason for many Conservatives to give in, and so no reason to actually govern. To make matters even worse any Republican that disagrees with the Conservative wing of his party is attacked for not being a real Republican, even if a majority of Republicans agree with them.
For example, in 2013 when Conservatives shut the government down to try and stop Obamacare, they only saw it as a win-win. This time if they shut it down over Planned Parenthood, or not even being able to agree on a budget with themselves it won’t be seen as a big deal. Its even more troubling when you consider the debt ceiling needs to be raised in December and if it isn’t the Federal Government will default on its payments.
All of this is a problem when one of the jobs of elected officials to make sure the Government is working for the people. Conservatives seem to think it shouldn’t work at all, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that they elect candidates with no interest in governing, and zero interest in forging compromises with those who do, because if the government is a great evil that must be purged, why should we do anything for it?
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