Can the GOP win in a hostage situation without vulnerable hostages?


Last December the Republicans in Congress held unemployed Americans hostage in order to secure tax breaks for the nation’s über-wealthy. It was a strategy that worked because Democrats, including President Obama, were unwilling to sacrifice the welfare of our most-vulnerable citizens simply to win a political battle.

Once again the country finds the GOP in a hostage-taking situation. In order to exact draconian, harmful cuts to the budget, they are turning away from big ticket items like defense and away from bringing more revenue into the national coffers by raising taxes on the rich and on corporations that exploit huge tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share (or anything in the case of General Electric!) Their threat is that they will shut down government until they get their way. In addition to the huge budget cuts, they are throwing in defunding planned parenthood and NPR as well as stripping the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate climate-changing greenhouse gases.

There’s a difference between this time and last, though. This time, they are holding ALL Americans hostage, not just a small, politically powerless and particularly vulnerable group. Not only that, they’ve been telling Americans for some time now that this isn’t going to be so bad; this is not going to hurt a bit.

It will hurt a bit, of course. But it’s not going to force people to go hungry or to lose their homes or worldly possessions. And the things they are trying to do are looking increasingly partisan and ideological, something many Americans actually disagree with.

So, the question this time around is whether or not President Obama and Democrats in Congress are willing to let the Republicans shut down government for a time to show the rest of the country just how recalcitrant and mired in political gamesmanship they truly are. Will they be willing to take the chance that American voters will hold the GOP responsible for the shutdown just like Newt Gingrich’s GOP caucus was during President Clinton’s term in office?

I am hoping this time around they plant their flag and say, “Enough!” They have, frankly, already given up too much as it is. Now is the time to hold their ground. Make the GOP own shutting down government because they didn’t get their way on funding a group that provides women’s healthcare (and, yes, they do some abortions, a LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE.) Make them own shutting down the government because they didn’t get their way on eliminating funding of an American asset like National Public Radio. Make them own shutting down the government because they didn’t get their way on letting the USEPA continue to act now to help prevent further damage to our planet’s climate. Let the court of public opinion put the Republicans on trial.

Without a vulnerable and politically-impotent hostage neck to hold a knife to, the Republicans are not in a good position to win this. Americans will see them as petty and political and partisan. And Democrats will have stood for something important at a time when we really need them to do that.

I’m just sayin’…