As the government shutdown continues well into the second week and we rapidly approach our debt ceiling, it’s hard not be cynical about the political process and our government, generally. After all, Congressmen are still getting paid while thousands of government employees are not. And, it’s not just government employees. Nearly all Americans are being impacted, whether through the closing of Head Start programs, closing of federal parks and monuments, or the issuing of licenses, we can really see the reach of the government-- and how important it is to our lives.
Senator Elizabeth Warren made this exact point in a speech on the Senate floor. As Senator Warren stated:
So Mr. President, to those who have forced us to the brink, to those who rail against a make-believe government, to those who seem to rejoice in anarchy, to those who salivate at the chance to shut down our government because of their extremist views have left them disconnected from the experiences of the American people, it is time to hear a simple message.
You can do your best to make government look like it doesn't work when you stop it from working.
You can do your best to make government look paralyzed when you paralyze it.
You can do your best to make government look incompetent and ineffective through your incompetence, and ineffective through your ineffectiveness.
But sooner or later, the government will reopen. Because this is a democracy, and this democracy has already rejected your views.
As my colleague, David Callahan, has pointed out continually, this shutdown is a story of money in politics gone awry. A few big donors created this extremist faction and now they, and the rest of the country, are suffering because of it.
The real cynics, however, are not those turned off by current Congressional shenanigans. The real cynics are these big money donors who are supported by a broken campaign finance system and believe this is an acceptable form of governance. They are the living embodiment of “I’ve got mine. You’re on your own.” Wealthy interests, who can well afford health care, are making defunding Obamacare a litmus test for their support. Those who benefit richly from low-tax rates, government subsidies and government contracts are forcing a shutdown that makes the life of the average American more difficult.
But, as Senator Warren points out, sooner or later the government will reopen. The more the extremist faction pushes us to the brink of disaster, the less of a threat they become because sane Americans understand there is a role for government and are quickly tiring of this circus. Elected officials may need money to run a campaign but they need voters to win one. And while it may not seem that way, the sane far outweigh the insane.