Do Republicans Just Not Care?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
At some point the Republican Party will come to its senses or will go out of existence, but at the moment it seems as determined to bring Government down and to a standstill as it was in 1995 when Newt Gingrich was House Speaker. The GOP of old has all but disappeared as a major Party. It is totally different party than it once was; regardless of what happens during the next days and weeks.
As a presumed partner in governing the country, the actions taken last week by the Republican controlled House of Representatives brought the art of governance to a new low. It was not only the callousness with which the conservative, Tea Partyers led their Republican colleagues in cutting out food stamps for 3.8 million Americans, rather gleefully saving the country $40 billion in doing so. Even assuming the best face that many of the Republicans who voted for the cuts expected, their knowing that their votes were merely posturing and would be overturned in the final vote, there is a fundamental ugliness in how this party plays with hearts and minds of Americans who are living on the dole.
With respect to a general Government shutdown, many people in Washington expect that Republicans in both chambers will take the voting down until the eleventh hour. They may walk off proudly as Government is shut-down because they refused to accept the Affordable Health Care Law—with whatever flaws need to be fixed—as the law of the land. While there undoubtedly are some Republicans who are totally embarrassed at the approach of their colleagues they have been intimidated and beaten down by the hard-line right wing conservatives and Tea Partyers.
Democrats, especially the President, do not get a free pass here. Obama and his party ought well to be embarrassed at the total inability of the President to take his opponents to the wood shack and bring the American people around to accepting the genuinely unacceptable Republican approach to governing. There is no leadership being exhibited by Democrats in Congress or by the President to try to force a deal before the deadline.
There is one explanation which might help to explain what has been developing in Washington over the past five years. Both sides may be playing the race card. Underlying the confrontation between the President and Congress, which everyone is denying, is race really the issue as play here?
On the one hand, perhaps at the root of the biases that some Members of the Republicans Party and the Tea Party hold in their principled opposition to the President lies a deep seated racism which has been converted into a fundamental dislike of anything championed by the Black President. On the other hand, is President Obama overwhelmed by his legacy as the first African-American President that he will do almost everything to avoid a confrontation with the Congress? Is he determined that no one will ever be able to suggest an ulterior motive to his behavior or impugn his integrity, even if it means a Government shutdown or lockdown?