Thursday, November 28, 2013

After the Fact III: The Government Shutdown

Reflections on a national disgrace and the man and his party who started it all.

By now, we all know that the Tea Party Republican Federal Government Shutdown™ was a national disgrace. From Sikkim to St. Petersburg to Sao Paulo, citizens the world over are still shaking their heads or shaking their fists at our right wing's inconceivable capacity for waste and stupidity.

Republicans, of course, were elated:
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN):  "We're very excited. It's exactly what we wanted, and we got it. People will be very grateful."
  • Rep. John Culberson (R-TX): "It's wonderful. We're 100 percent united!"
But of course, the carnage they wrought brought anything but smiles across America. On top of the 800,000 federal workers who suffered through the first half of October without a paycheck, the impacts on air travel, imports and exports, small businesses, national parks, and America's reputation across the globe are now well-documented. Ironically, the overall price tag of $24 billion according to Standard & Poor's will now be paid by the same U.S. taxpayers the Tea Party professes to represent with its unique brand of vehement ignorance.

But to me, one of the most disturbing details of this dark chapter revolves around the man CNN dubbed the "Architect of the Shutdown," Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), who apparently circulated the letter that, once signed by a host of Republicans in Congress, left them beholden to the folly of the shutdown no matter what the costs. Explaining why he would jeopardize his party and the country in such a reckless manner, Meadows said:
"My job first is to make sure I represent the people back home. I don't believe that when I get here that people expect me to look at the political implications. That's for somebody else to focus on."
But in fact, as a member of the United States Congress, there are matters much more important than "political implications" for Congressman Meadows and his Tea Party compatriots to focus on. He is now a national leader (as terrifying as that may seem), and a national leader must look at all these issues through a national prism. His votes, his commitments, his party, even his inane floor speeches, all have national implications, implications well beyond the gentle slopes of western North Carolina, implications in Brooklyn and Compton and Fargo, North Dakota and Jackson, Mississippi. If Mark Meadows wants to represent the people back home, he really ought to do us all a favor and go run for mayor of Morgantown, where the most damage he can do would be slicing his thumb open while cutting a ribbon.

If any more evidence were needed that the Tea Party is not fit to make decisions with national and international implications, last month's government shutdown shows us that Mark Meadows stands as Exhibit A in an open-and-shut case.