Daily Archives: October 1, 2013

Democracy’s Timeout

At midnight, while I was watching “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Brian Williams briefly interrupted the beginning of Magic Johnson’s interview with “Breaking News” that the federal government had shut down for the first time since 1995/1996.

What was my reaction? Panic? Shock? Feeling as if the end is near?

No. I gently shrugged my shoulders. Thankfully, “The Tonight Show” resumed a few moments later.

Sadly, a majority of Americans likely reacted the same way I did upon hearing the news.

First, it needs to be stated that the Tea Party went beyond its electoral mandate in their strategy and comments surrounding a government shutdown. There is a time and place for legitimate policy debate, but this was not one of those moments. As George Will has summarized previously on ABC’s “This Week,” the Republicans control one-third of government and they cannot govern the country with that ratio of power.

Without walking through the labyrinth of political strategy and calculation, it bears stating how fascinating and contrasting the means by which both parties are exercising their power on the issue of Obamacare. The Democrats are, on television and reportedly in private, refusing to even entertain Republicans’ requests to delay Obamacare for individuals for one-year like the Obama Administration did for large corporations (still not sure how that worked legally?).

In the eyes of Democrats, when a law is passed, that’s it. It’s permanent. As David Gregory posed on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday morning, “when is a law a law?” Well, according to Gregory and some of his fellow liberals, a law is a law when it’s passed by Democrats. But surely not the other way around, right? Similar to Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement programs, once that legislation becomes law, there is no need to change it. Ever.

Want proof? How many Democrats are willing to increase the age requirement or change the benefit structure to receive the aforementioned entitlements on the basis of (gasp!) solvency? There is statistical data clearly proving that men and women are living significantly longer than when those programs were first instituted decades ago. But remember, simply because it became law, it is etched in stone forever.

There is a word for this: monarchical.

Conversely, Republicans are fully willing to pull every available lever in the democracy and legislative playbook to defend their principles and policies for fiscal sanity. Are the Republicans implementing the best strategy right now? No. How can Obamacare be repealed and replaced? The Republicans need to maintain control of the House of Representatives, win control of the Senate and win back the White House. A little more political calculus should probably be exercised by those right of center.

Again though, when is a law a law?

Republicans believe a law is a law until it’s not a law. What does this mean? If a law is good for the large majority of the American people and proves to benefit the society as a whole now and into the future, then the law should remain or not be altered until it doesn’t function properly anymore (if and when that happens). However, if the law is structurally damaging and has an overwhelmingly negative effect on the American people (particularly those who are already struggling), then the law should be repealed and/or replaced.

This move does not represent any cynical motives, just efforts for better policy.

Surely, there were previous laws during past moments in history that should not have been enacted. In this case, they should have removed or replaced.

There is a word for this exercise in America: democracy.

Democracy is a messy business and is forever fluid, as confirmed by a few powerful words in the Preamble of the United States Constitution: “…in Order to form a more perfect Union…” In essence, this country will never be a finished product. Consequently, Americans will continue to work hard everyday in pursuit of making themselves and this nation the best it can be until the sun rises again tomorrow morning.

It’s a beautifully perfect premise.

Are both Democrats and Republicans overstepping their boundaries right now? Yes.

Jay Leno might have struck the exact right chord last night during his monologue:

“…Both sides are blaming each other. Republicans are pointing their fingers at Democrats, the Democrats are pointing their fingers at the Republicans and the Americans are pointing the middle finger at both of them.”

There have been political battles between conservatives and liberals and Republicans and Democrats throughout American history. It’s existed in the past and always will in the future. There are profound differences between these opposing ideologies. And yet, fortunately, there have been several key partnerships that have led this nation through some very difficult times that achieved truly great things for the people.

Still, reflect on what the message has been for the past five years or so. President Obama has publicly made it crystal clear that Republicans are the enemies and that he is unwilling to compromise on anything valuable with the relentlessly reasonable Speaker of the House John Boehner. Negotiations require give and take on both sides.

Back in 2012, President Obama famously said, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Mr. President, if you’re experiencing gridlock in D.C. and throughout the country, just so you know, you did do that. You made that happen.

You are the president. You set the tone. And you certainly have.

Yes, the Republicans need to be more accommodating in some circumstances, but the president is the leader. The absence of genuine relationships and willingness for give-and-take with members of Congress has been detrimental for deal-making throughout this administration.

Many commentators think people are not listening to the president very much these days. On the contrary, people are and have been listening intently for the past five years or so.

On that note, congratulations are in order for President Obama. If he wanted to make it known (and he has) that half the country is forever wrong and inclined to hurt people by even disagreeing with his policies and viewpoints based on facts and proven philosophy, then, well, mission accomplished.

Last night at midnight was merely the “official” government shutdown. Most Americans have known that the government’s been shut down for much longer that just a matter of hours. Like the financial crisis in 2008, political and presidential gridlock did not begin nor will it end with President Obama. But, regarding the financial situation and gridlock, he has actively made each worse.

One thing is certain amongst everything: Jay Leno continues to joyfully appeal to a broad audience night after night and, as a result, continues to be successful as the leader in the late night comedy ratings.

Strange how that works.