In some ways, its funny how life operates. Just as the government started its shutdown yesterday, so too did my firm shutter its doors. Of course, my firm simply moved from our modernist digs Downtown (that were way, way, way too big for us*) to a Victorian house in Little Italy.** Of course, we turned back on the phones, got the internet up and running, etc., and we are almost back in business (absent our paralegal, who's computer was dropped by the movers). Sure we are still sorting a few things, but we are almost back to full operating capacity.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the federal government. Its still closed(ish) and by all accounts, Congress isn't going to pass anything any time soon. So I wonder, what gives? Now yes, I am aware of gerrymandering creating a rump of Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen who come from districts where Obama lost by an average of 40 points (he won by 4 points nationwide), but gerrymandering has been part of American politics from the very beginning. Heck, the term gerrymander came from a newspaper in 1812. Now, is it more prevalent now than ever before? In some states, certainly.
Is it the egregious unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare)? It may be a contributing factor, but I don't think its the main factor. I do think Republicans overstate its unpopularity because they don't take into account the fact that a number of Democrats oppose the law because it isn't single payer. If you take a look at the poll I just linked to, you'll notice that the ACA does worse among self-described Democrats (58% approval) than it does among Democratic-leaning independents (68%). This shouldn't be a huge surprise, because after all, ACA was created by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. And its not the huge government run health care plan that most people assume it is - most people are going to have private insurance through their employer, just as they always have.
Additionally, there are lots of bills passed by previous Administrations that haven't been liked by Congress, and none of those ever resulted in a government shutdown. Instead, Congress quietly chipped away at those programs.
In the past 20 years there have been just two government shutdowns - in 1995 and today. In both instances you have a Democratic President and a Republican House. And here's where they also are similar - in both instances there were a large number of Republicans who did not recognize the legitimacy of the President. Remember Clinton was elected in 1992 with a plurality of the vote - he got 43% to George H.W. Bush's 37% (and Perot's 19%). Since Clinton didn't get a majority, and Republicans thought he was a slime ball (Slick Willy anyone), they didn't respect him.
With Obama, the same thing applies. There are Republicans that believe that armed rebellion may be necessary, that Obama has a secret plan to take away guns, and that Obama was born in Kenya. These individuals, in their gerrymandered districts, go out and elect morons. Or, as I like to say, the dipshit caucus.
But its more than that. The whole right-wing infrastructure is based upon gullibility of Republican voters. People watch right-wing television, and are flooded with commercials convincing them to buy gold at ridiculous prices. Or buy AK-47s and ammo, or any number of craziness. It needs people like Michele Bachmann or Louie Gohmert to advocate any number of ridiculous things which charges up the electorate and gets them to spend money. Notice that televangelism - so-called preachers on television getting people to give money they don't have so that the preacher could buy a cathedral - isn't all that big anymore? That's because televangelists all followed Pat Robertson to the much more lucrative game of conservative politics.
In that kind of charged environment, there is no room for compromise. Obamacare is the worst thing ever, and there will be death panels, and abortions and unspeakable horrors that come from affordable health insurance. There's no way to back down from that. People who don't support the extremes are naturally enemies. And those enemies get primaried.
Here's the last thing though - the rubes aren't the majority of the American people, or even the majority of Republicans, they are the plurality. Most Republicans, even Congressional Republicans know that Obama is the legitimate President of the United States. They want to move on, and would move on, except they are afraid of losing their seats (*cough*John Boehner*cough*). Even long-time conservatives are amazed at the developments.
Now normally, this is where the Democrats would cave. But I don't think that will happen. For one, the 2010 elections, and the subsequent redistricting pretty much eliminated the conservative, Blue Dog Democrats, who would be the ones pushing for some kind of compromise. By the way, the Democrats have already compromised by agreeing to the sequestration funding in the CIR. For another, they see weakness on the Republican side. And lastly, there is some ego involved - there's no way they are going to get rolled by the dipshit caucus, especially since Boehner has out and out said that the House Republicans are going to pull the same shit with the debt ceiling.
Sadly, I think we are in for a drawn-out constitutional crisis unless something major happens. And by major, I mean 20 Republicans break from the House Leadership, and maybe form a new political party.
*We got a good deal moving in, and were renting around 4,000 sq. ft., and could have put a bocce ball court in the middle of the office and be affected in the slightest.
**I'm digging my new office - its seemingly more intimate and bigger than my old office.