The American government is a lot like many of the American people, in that it has a fuckton of debt, some of which has been spent on worthless crap (warrantless mass data collection, universally hated bank bailouts, and beanie babies), and some of which is the result of long-term strategic investment that will grow financial and social wealth down the road (like health care spending or buying a home/property). As we certainly all know by now, the government shutdown is in full swing and congress is deadlocked, with GOP members led by house speaker Boehner insisting that cuts to Obamacare provisions be included in any new spending bill, including a vote to raise the national debt ceiling and keep the government open for business.
It may seem like this entire exercise has done little but show that our country is run by a bunch of bickering clowns who can’t practice the time-tested skills of compromise and diplomacy that occur daily in most workplaces. And while I may not disagree with that assessment, I see a possible silver lining in these top-level shenanigans as an incentive to permanently change the way we look at politics in this country; not “some damn game,” in the words of Boehner himself, but as a mechanism for restoring health and more broadly distributed wealth to our increasingly strapped citizens.
First of all, Obama, who has been holding firm that the GOP’s tactics of holding Americans hostage by connecting the two considerably separate dots of the debt ceiling and Obamacare, hasn’t shown this much spine since the campaign trail. Additionally, as Robert Kuttner aptly hypothesized over at HuffPo, as those opposed to the health care bill begin to see the benefits extended to their own selves, the alarmism present in surrounding GOP rhetoric will be revealed as nothing but a manipulation-fueled illusion.
It’s equally telling that bailing out private banks is less of an issue to some hard-line Republicans than keeping the infrastructure of our country’s democracy running smoothly, yet more impetus for attitudes to change going forward, particularly if they concede in the face of citizens (aka voters) who are growing weary with their lives as political chess pieces. Simply put, the ballsiest straw yet may be the one that breaks the camels back, insofar as that even the most ignorant, emotion-clouded, and self-hating voter wouldn’t betray proven, tangible self-interest. Or would they? This is America.
The bottom line is that we have an opportunity here to reprioritize politics not as a PR-centered power grab, but as a vehicle for long-term commitment to the health and wealth of our (majority) middle class, wealth that will translate into a more robust, consumer-driven economy from the street level to the boardroom, and eventually to the White House.