Standing on the Precipice of Democracy

My neighbor lost his job this week. When I see him later today, I’ll let him know it’s okay.

He’s just part of what Fox News is calling a slimdown.

It’s like Weight Watchers for the Federal Government.

Unfortunately, while Rep. Randy Neugebauer and other Republican politicians are yelling at Park Rangers and committing acts “of civil disobedience against themselves” (as Tom Scocca writes), my neighbor and 799,999 other federal employees are sitting at home checking bank accounts and serving beans and rice.

Understand that I hold most politicians in some small measure of contempt. As I’ve note in past blogs, we have entered an era where politics too often collides with absurdity. We are, quite honestly, being governed by people elected by increasingly small groups of special interests and lobbyists. The candidate with the best marketer and the wittiest tweet is too often elected to Congress.

But let’s make no mistake: The government shutdown is a product of a Republican attack on the Constitution. Rarely have we seen such an open and dishonest display of indignation as we are witnessing this week from the men and women of the Republican party.

This shutdown isn’t because President Obama won’t negotiate or compromise. This shutdown isn’t because of the Affordable Care Act or about reigning in government spending.

This shutdown is because a group of Republican politicians are incapable of using legislative methods to overturn a law they dislike.

This shutdown is because a political party is incapable of winning a national election to overturn a law they dislike.

This shutdown is because a small group of politicians have decided their desire trumps the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States of America because of a law they dislike.

This shutdown argues that a small group of politicians is within their rights to bring America to a halt because of a law they dislike.

This shutdown is not a principled stand against oppression. This shutdown is an act of oppression.

The Affordable Care Act was passed by both houses of Congress, signed into law by the President, and has withstood challenges in front of a very conservative Supreme Court. The law was the center piece of the last election cycle, an election that witnessed a President re-elected.

The move to shutdown the government, in essence, argues that the rule of law doesn’t matter. Republicans are arguing that a small group of determined politicians can simply close down the government if they don’t like the results of the democratic process and then demand that Constitutionally passed laws be re-negotiated outside due process.

I thought the original tea party patriots fought against a small group of rulers telling Americans how to live their lives?

Regardless of our political inclinations, we cannot and we must not support politicians who argue that anarchy and chaos are more valuable than the democratic process. The Republican House passed a spending bill that was soundly rejected. It was their duty to propose legislation they felt best suited America.

But it is also their duty to abide by the legislative process. They lost. They did not make their case. They did not win the argument.

That’s democracy. Some days I get my way and some days you get your way. Every once in a while, we both win.

Everyone of the Republicans can take their stand by voting no against a clean spending bill. They can go tell their constituents they did everything within the law, but they felt duty bound by the Constitution to uphold the law. They can keep working to limit the government and shape policy within the legislative process.

They can run for election and re-election on any platform they want.

But they don’t get to take their toys and go home just because they lose.

There is, despite what Republicans keep saying, nothing to negotiate. Either we follow the law, or we don’t. This moment in time is not about President Obama or Rep. John Boehner. This fight is about the next President and the next Congress.

This fight is about the appropriate checks and balances of American democracy.

We are, as you can imagine, on the precipice. If the Republicans are successful in their willingness to play with the American people’s welfare, we clearly open the door for the next group of House members to shut down the government when they disagree with any law duly passed or not.

In the meantime, my neighbor is still out of work, wondering how long his savings will last.

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