Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The Legal Insurrection, Part 2
It is already obvious, after only one day of the Federal Government shutdown, that many forces are focusing on driving President Obama from his logically unassailable position: the Affordable Health Care act was legally passed, has passed muster with the Supreme Court, and was a center piece of the late Presidential election, which the Republican candidate who campaigned on repealing the law, lost handily. The current Republican campaign to nonetheless remove the law from operation thus involves a kind of legal insurrection, with the hundreds of thousands of Federal employees and operations being held hostage as leverage.
This situation is, at least to me, obvious. Yet much media reporting is already describing the shutdown as an impasse in which both the Republicans and President Obama are equally culpable. Last night on MSNBC, during breaks in the Hayes and Maddow coverage of the story, appeared a soothing ad shot in soft focus of John Huntsman and Evan Bayh, both described below their faces as "governors," who appealed in the ad for compromise, for some middle ground solution which involved postponing implementation of the Affordable Care law until unemployment statistics reached the arbitrary percentage of 6.5. This cliche of balance, which is pretty much the standard frame in which all conflicts between the two parties are placed by most of the media most of the time, insinuates itself into coverage easily. On NPR yesterday there was an interview story featuring various people affected by the shutdown. A woman operating a Head Start program (I think it was) got to make the usual, commonsense, argument: "I wish those folks in Washington would get together on this."
Politically, Mr. Obama's absolutely correct position is hanging on his own fortitude, his ability to withstand a mounting din of criticism not only from the right, but from the center and the left as well. Politically, Mr. Obama has but four Democratic votes in the Senate to spare. The pressure on Democratic Senators is intense. When I went to our local TV station's website yesterday to read simple AP reports of various aspects of the shutdown (and for that matter, sports stories, and stories having nothing at all to do with the shutdown), I was greeted with an ad being run by the Heritage Foundation which over and over pleaded with me to write my Democratic Senator, Kay Hagan, and tell her to save the country from the hated Affordable Care Act.
Being a Democratic Senator in North Carolina is these days, I'm sure, something of a lonely outpost. Another news story on WRAL reported Attorney General Holder's decision to sue NC over our horrible new voting procedure law. Down the page were stories on our state government's decision to reject federal grants to aid in water testing at fracking sites, a decision which the public defense by the agency doing the rejecting was described as both "combative" and "defensive"--by someone described as an "environmentalist" of course. Kay Hagan is a long-time successful North Carolina politician, and may well manage to brush aside these pressures. I might just send her a case of Tums, nonetheless.
As has been written in many places, the Republican Insurrection, a grand hostage-taking of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people simply doing their jobs, if successful, will have the long term effect of diminishing the office of the Presidency. This, moreover, is a more and more obvious long term goal of the Republicans. Being anti democratic, the Republican Party finds forever having to argue its case with a voting public it mostly disrespects (see, e.g., "47% of them will never vote for us,..." Willard "Mitt" Romney, May, 2012)an odious chore. Much better to incessantly call the Democratic Party the "Democrat Party" and continuously roil the underlying afflictions of racism, sexism, and anti-union sentiment which already keep much of the voting public from seeing clearly whose candidate is whose. Much better to legislate new rules for voting which have the practical effect of disenfranchising groups proven by scientific analysis of previous elections to have trended towards Democratic candidates, whilst at the same time perfecting the scientific art of the gerrymander so that it takes three Democratic votes to equal one Republican, when it comes to electing representatives.
But just wait and see what happens when an authoritarian figure emerges in 2016. Republicans don't much like democracy, but they love authority. Their last best President was, after all, the Supreme Allied Commander and first Five Star General.
Further reading, should you desire:
Also, for a rather abstract diagram of something to the far side of tomorrow:
A tale of two cities.