The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 31, 2013

My View: Shutdown born of GOP extortion, extremism


Some relevant history: In 1995-96, congressional Republicans triggered, and were rightly blamed for, two government shutdowns after attempting to blackmail then-President Bill Clinton into signing budget bills loaded with severe cuts to domestic programs, including Medicare, education and environmental protection. Averaging across four polls, 49 percent blamed congressional Republicans for the 1995 shutdown, 26 percent blamed Clinton and 19 percent blamed both (3). 

Recent polling showed similar results, with one poll showing 53 percent ready to blame congressional Republicans, and 22 percent ready to blame Obama, for the recent shutdown. (4)

Ignoring this, congressional Republicans recklessly claimed “the American people” supported them. Enough already: In Republican-speak, the “American people” really means only “the tea party,” “the Republican base” or both – pure delusion.

Republicans trumpeted polls supposedly showing public opposition to “Obamacare” — ignoring two fundamental realities. First, much polling on this issue obscures that a significant chunk of opposition stems from progressives, unhappy that ACA did not go far enough in expanding health coverage.(5). Second, vague opposition to ACA doesn’t mean the public endorses the Republican defunding crusade. 

Far from it: A September poll found 44 percent opposition to defunding ACA, with 38 percent support. The Republican fetish for tethering ACA defunding to raising the debt ceiling or averting government shutdown attracted 59 percent opposition and 19 percent support. (6)

In its wake of the defeat of the extortion caucus. perhaps Republicans will begin to recognize some realities. A legitimate path to repealing ACA would be electing a Republican president and a Republican controlled Senate. Having failed at both in 2012, Republicans aren’t entitled to effectively negate that election through extortion and blackmail today. 

Obama’s supposed refusal to compromise is a perfectly legitimate response to extortion and blackmail. Any Obama capitulation to the Extortion Caucus will establish a precedent that this president can be steamrolled – and extortion, blackmail and dragging the country kicking and screaming through crisis after crisis will become routine actions from House Republicans. Obama is willing to compromise – but only through good-faith negotiation. The trouble with today’s Republican Party is that tea party zealots now run it, and to that crowd, compromise is apocalyptic heresy, while extortion and blackmail are glorified.

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