Shutdown: New phase in a very American coup


They didn't wear jackboots, but the shutdown of government by an extremist faction of the Republican Party can only be described as a new phase in a very American coup. The barbarians of the far right are at the gates. Our democracy, I would say with no hint of dramatization, is under siege.

The immediate trigger of this assault was this faction's out-of-control obsession to defund the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans earlier had hoped that they could repeal this signature legislative achievement of President Obama in the wake of a sweeping GOP victory at the polls in 2010. But when voters, much to the Republicans' surprise and consternation, gave Barack Obama a second term and left Democrats in control of the Senate, that option evaporated.

With this turn of events, the most extreme faction in the Republican Party went back to the drawing board, where they concluded that they could not wait til 2016, the next presidential cycle, to bury Obamacare. By that time, they worried, it might have become so popular that any attempt to repeal it would prove futile, and even damaging to their political standing.

Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate and a part of this faction of roughly 90 House members (it goes beyond the tea party caucus), echoed this sentiment recently. "The reason this debt limit fight is so different is we don't have an election where we feel we are going to fix it [the Affordable Care Act] ourselves," he said at the end of September. "We are stuck with this government another three years."

Faced with this reality, a new tactical pathway to undo the Affordable Care Act became a hot topic of debate in the extremist wing of the Republican Party.

That it might entail violating the core democratic principle of majority rule, nullifying the last election, courting economic disaster in the midst of an already anemic recovery, and bringing on a political crisis of first rate proportions, didn't seem to bother these firebrands of the right. They were prepared to roll the dice.

What followed was predictable. Dialogue with counterparts across the aisle and the president yielded to brinksmanship. Obstruction gave way to reckless adventurism. Discussion grounded in at least semi-reality turned into non-stop demagogy, apocalyptic fantasies, and Orwellian doublespeak. And normal procedures like funding basic government operations and lifting the debt limit so that the federal government can pay its financial obligations became "forcing events," as we are now witnessing, to extract major concessions from the Obama administration, regardless of the economic and social harm they cause to tens of millions.

This wasn't a seat-of-the-pants, improvisational decision by an addled group of tea party House members a week or two ago. It is traceable to a meeting held earlier this year and reported by the New York Times.

A chilling report tells us that Ed Meese, zealous former Reagan administration attorney general and right-wing operative, and "a loose knit coalition of conservatives activists," some of whom have substantial holdings in oil and gas, met not long after the president's reelection and decided then that the only way to defund Obamacare was to shut down government this fall.

That plan found an eager audience and shock troops in the right-wing extremist members in the House of Representatives, and Ted Cruz and a few others in the Senate. They were ready to "burn the village down in order to save it."

This should surprise no one who is at all familiar with what has been going on in Washington since the 2010 mid-term elections.

This gang of wreckers doesn't fit on what might be considered the normal spectrum of U.S. politics. By temperament, outlook, and practice they are authoritarian, racist, male supremacist, xenophobic, and misogynist. They despise labor and are committed to restoration of the "White Republic" which would put people of color into a new caste system, not identical to Jim Crow but every bit as racialized, exploitive, and oppressive.

Some of them believe in millenarianist "end times." Most come from the South, but they also hail from the Plains and Rocky Mountains states. They consider their opponents illegitimate and un-American. And paranoia and panic, ramped up to the extreme by the inexorable trend toward a majority minority population, explain in no small measure their readiness to pursue politics by anti-democratic and unconstitutional means.

While its current reckless tactics have nothing close to the full blessing of Wall Street and Main Street, this rogue gang seems undeterred; in fact it appears to relish the opportunity to press its campaign to defund the health care law, challenge the president, and reverse the results of last year's election.

With the debt limit fast approaching it is anybody's guess if this right-wing extremist group and the leadership of the Republican Party will push the country over the brink and into an abyss in which no one quite knows what will happen.

If you listen to tea party zealots in the House, as well as Republican House leader John Boehner, you hear them claim that they are for negotiations, compromise, even re-funding nearly every government operation, except - and this is a big except - for the Affordable Care Act. In recent days, as a fall-back, they are adding demands for cuts in Medicare and Medicaid - steps toward achieving their long-cherished goal of eliminating these core programs.

So far the Obama administration has refused to accede to such "offers," knowing full well that to do so would only invite more extremist demands and actions in the future. It would effectively end his presidency, cripple our democracy, and legitimize the rule of an anti-democratic, anti-labor, militarist minded, racist clique.

President Obama has said he is ready to sit down with his Republican adversaries, but not with a gun to his head, not with threats of defunding Obamacare, blocking the normal operations of government, and refusing to lift the debt ceiling framing the discussion.

Any other position would be suicidal. It would only invite more "forcing events" from the Republicans to force down living standards, eviscerate rights, poison the environment, widen inequality in its many forms, and give a green light to Big Oil to continue to warm the planet's atmosphere.

When combined with the 25 states or so where right-wing Republican governments rule, display a secessionist mentality worthy of segregationists and slaveholders in earlier eras, evince contempt for every social gain and right secured in the 20th century, and run roughshod over democratic norms, structures, and values, it is fair to say that the nation faces threats to its democratic character that make Watergate, Irangate, and even McCarthyism pale in comparison.

The president, in taking a firm stance against the tea party/right-wing extremist crowd, including its band of reactionary financial backers, deserves the full support of every decent-minded American. And a loud voice needs to insist on no cuts to Medicare and Medicaid as part of a resolution to the crisis. The high-stakes drama playing out in Washington is the front line in the struggle to preserve and expand democracy.

Photo: U.S. Capitol building. Kevin Burkett CC 2.0


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  • Yes, everything said in Sam's article is correct! I'd certainly agree that we should "support President Obama" & the Democrats that stood firm so far. But that support needs to be more than passive, we need to be in the streets!

    However, while the analysis is good, what is the role for regular Americans? If we are to avoid this much more than creeping fascism, the people must be mobilized! Our nation's labor movement is the only force in society that can bring this entire alliance of people together & voice the just demands of our suffering people! While it is true that many more Americans (correctly) blame Republicans than Democrats for this attack on our nation's government, a very large, significant, section blames Obama, or just blames "everybody." That is dangerous! It is destroying the faith our people hold in our government and in democracy.

    Now we are again faced with another so-called "crisis," with infamous Simpson/Bowles being resurrected & all the talking heads telling us that "we must sacrifice more!" This, when corporate profits are at an all-time high & the wealthy have gotten ALL gains from our economy.

    We need a massive national mobilization to demand our government stay open, for real jobs to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure & for retiree security. Without the people's organized intervention, the very real crisis will rapidly become far, far worse! That is how we need to support those in DC who stand with us, as well as stand up for working Americans!

    Posted by bruce bostick, 10/20/2013 6:10pm (2 years ago)

  • Barack Obama was elected upon the wishes of 1/3 of this country. 1/3 voted against him and 1/3 thought neither party put out a viable candidate and didn't bother to vote at all. Not exactly a mandate of the people. Obama care is a problem. It was only found constitutional based on the fact that it was a tax, not that is was healthcare. I have a son who has had insurance for many years, and still can't afford healthcare. Forcing people to buy a product of any industry is unconstitutional. They could have just added those with prior issue to the medicaid rolls and told us exactly what it would cost every American who is working. That though would not have done an industry bailout of the insurance companies who have been hard hit by natural disasters. Obamacare does bailout insurance companies. They are guaranteed a profit.

    Posted by Mary Thayer, 10/17/2013 12:21pm (2 years ago)

  • Hitler didn't seize power, it was voted to him. Saw a BBC interview with one of the TP's poster boys. Rep Kingston, where he say, " We don't have a democracy, we have a representative republic. Elected representatives do what they think is right for their constituents" Seig Heil, The 1000 year march hasn't missed a beat.

    Posted by carl, 10/17/2013 10:40am (2 years ago)

  • The Ted Cruz'.of the world is exactly whom the "oil tycoons" were looking for. A lackey to do their bidding. We need to re think what kind of Country we want to live in. And come mid term elections vote or recall these disideants out of office!

    Posted by tricia, 10/16/2013 10:36pm (2 years ago)

  • If the Tea Party is extremist then what does that make the far leftists that want to centralize and consolidate power into the hands of the few for the "greater good"?

    Posted by Wut, 10/13/2013 7:32am (2 years ago)

  • I don't agree with right wing ideals or this recent event of there's, but I must say thank god, obama care is a good idea, but in practice has way to many loop holes, and errors.

    Posted by Tyler, 10/12/2013 3:16pm (2 years ago)

  • Dearest Brotha Sam,

    I totally agree with you 100%! This attack on the working class is a wrecking train gone into a feeding frenzy. It will take main street, us, the people to stop this brutal attack on our very existence! I think some uniformed folks blame our President, but the blame has to be laid at the feet of tbe right wing forces of the Republican party who are paid off by the most backwards sectors of the ruling class. Why not Occupy Republicans offices around the country. Shut the ass-holes down!

    Posted by mama Cassie, 10/11/2013 1:39pm (2 years ago)

  • Sam really is on target. They don't need jackboots to act like storm troopers, and that is exactly what they are doing. And the same class elements that funded and supported Hitler's storm troops and Mussolini's blackshirted "fighting squads" are behind them here;not the steel magnate Fritz Thyssen, the big German auto makers supporting Hitler, or the Perrone Brothers, WWI Italian war profiteers supporting Mussolini, but the Koch Brothers and a collection of Billionaires who, as the Communist movement noted at the time, represented the most reactionary sectors of the capitalist class. The capitalists who were not with them by the way didn't do anything to stop them and the banks and corporations who aren't backing these characters won't do anything to stop them either. It is only peoples movements can do that because, just as in Italy and Germany, the sectors of capital which did not support fascism in its rise feared that the fascists policies would lead to war and possibly revolution and they would go down too, the way sections of capital see these policies as leading to an economc catastrophe for them and a huge peoples backlash that will cost them dearly

    Posted by , 10/11/2013 12:59pm (2 years ago)

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