Who Caused the Government Shutdown? Obama and the Democrats are at Fault


PolicyMic has published a number of articles vilifying the GOP for its role in shutting down the government. These articles have accused Republicans in terms ranging from hostage-takers to treason for essentially representing the views of their audience.

The hyperbolic venting demonstrates a lack of understanding of the role of politics in our government. Politics are a series of negotiations in which sides offer alternatives until a consensus is built no matter how marginal. These negotiations determine how we are governed.

The GOP is doing what politicians are supposed to do. They are essentially offering to trade something that their audience generally doesn't like, increasing the debt limit, for something that its audience wants, defunding Obamacare ("ACA"). In the world of politics, the Democrats should respond with an alternative, one which protects the ACA while providing more party favors for the Republicans such as approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, offshore drilling, or reductions in pollution regulations. The breakdown in this process comes from the Democrats who have refused to participate in a political process.

The issue isn't the ACA as much as the President's belief that he can have it all. The president's position is nothing more than a political bet. He is betting that the Republicans will have to fold under the pressure that he creates. He is betting that they have picked the wrong issue, and that he will win by holding his breath. Understand the terms of the president's bet: Americans lose until he wins.

His bet puts his politics above the welfare of the nation, and yet he has the temerity to blame the Republicans for the consequences. The consequences are serious for the thousands of people who have been furloughed. These people have two weeks before their pay is cut. The consequences are more serious for those who depend upon programs reduced by the his intransigence. 

These are serious consequences for everyone except the president because his bet is probably a smart bet. The ACA is open. The Republicans core base may or may not like the ACA, but that dislike will quickly erode as the government ceases to provide services. Moreover, people are blaming the Republicans. 

If this scenario is winning to the president, he needs to remember what he said as a Senator  in 2006: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure ... I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.” Whether the Obama likes it or not, negotiating is part of his job.

The story here isn't about hostages or treason. It isn't about the ACA, or even the debt limit. This story is garden variety politics where America is the one that loses. Our government is for better or worse a political beast, and the political process within it has broken down. The government needs to shut down, until the pressure of failure builds on both sides to bring them together.