I’m serving on the advisory board of the Voice of the People project, which is developing innovative (and scientifically valid) ways to allow “Members of Congress to hear from a representative sample of their constituents on key issues facing Congress.”
What we’re seeing here is how three structural changes that have been building in American politics have now, together, reached a tipping point — creating a world in which a small minority in Congress can not only hold up their own party but the whole government. And this is the really scary part: The lawmakers doing this can do so with high confidence that they personally will not be politically punished, and may, in fact, be rewarded. When extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules — namely majority rule and the fact that if you don’t like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can’t just put a fiscal gun to the country’s head — then our democracy is imperiled.
In essence, the hard-line faction of the House GOP is demanding the following, as recent NYT, WSJ, and WaPo articles, apart from today’s, have made clear:
EITHER the Administration must undo the main legislative accomplishment of the president’s time in office, which he passed despite filibuster resistance four years ago and which the Supreme Court has since held constitutional;
OR ELSE all other business of the government will be halted, and the full faith and credit of the United States will be called into question, with unknown but likely bad world-financial consequences.
This is not what either John Boehner or Mitch McConnell says he stands for. I have no doubt that Obama could ultimately strike some compromise with even McConnell’s filibuster-happy Senate Republicans and any kind of normal Republican majority in the House. In the end Democrats would complain that Obama had caved, Republicans would complain about Beltway insiderism, but some deal would result. Yet enough of today’s absolutist House members think in exactly these Either/Or terms that normal compromise is simply impossible. Compromise itself is as much their stated enemy as is Obamacare.
Emphasis mine. For the most part, a two-party, dual-ideology system works so that you can have extreme factions on either side, they can come together, compromise on something, and some measure of good and fairness can come of it. That’s how politics and lawmaking has worked in this country for 200+ years. But what are you supposed to do when enough of one side of an argument would rather see this country burn to the ground than to compromise at all? How is that anything short of terrorism?