Rumble in the GOP jungle

For two weeks Americans could see what less government looked like. How can the Tea Party take advantage? Photo: Republican vs Tea Party/ Public image

WASHINGTON October 21, 2013 — For two weeks the people of the United States lived with the federal government in a partial shutdown. For two weeks the people of the United States cowered like cavemen in their hovels, protecting their fires with pointed rocks, and grunting in their primitive dialect while planning the morning’s mastodon hunt.

Now, two weeks later, the people of the United States can crawl out from under their crudely constructed shelters made from the ruins of their once glorious homes, and they can bask in the glorious light of the federal government as it restores civility and decency to a nation in desperate need of its wisdom and governance.


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Oh wait, sorry. The opposite happened.

For two weeks the American people were able to see what it was like without the federal government intruding on every activity they do every day. For two weeks the American people had their eyes opened to just how massive, far reaching, and encroaching the federal government really is.

And the Democrats only made it worse.

Speech after speech and warning after warning about how a government shutdown will affect everything in the country. Security checkpoints at airports will take longer to pass through, passport offices will be closed, Social Security checks might be delayed going out, National Parks would be shut down, people with cancer would not be able to seek treatment at the NIH, and it might have to cancel Christmas.


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But Social Security checks went out. People still made it on time to flights. National Parks were eventually opened.

And in some cases, private industry or states took over the roles of the federal government.

Jay Carney and the Democrats made it seem as though without the all-powerful federal government the United States would turn into a post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited by shambling seniors and roving gangs of furloughed non-essential government workers. And while the streets of DC were indeed packed with more weeknight drinkers than normal, fire did not rain from the sky and Denzel Washington was not forced to memorize a Bible and protect it from Gary Oldman.

However the result of the shutdown is pretty much exactly what the Democrats wanted.


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The Republicans in the Senate made their stand, or at least some of them. Those who realized that Obamacare was going to cost this country more than money, those who realized that increasing the debt ceiling was going to transfer power to the executive branch, and those who realized that the United States is heading down a dark and gloomy road took a stand against all these things.

Ted Cruz took his stand with his allies in the Senate, and he lost.

He lost because of the constant and relentless campaign President Obama, Jay Carney, and Harry Reid ran in the media against the shutdown. They painted Cruz and his allies as madmen, holding the government hostage and causing irreparable harm to the economy. President Obama, instead of directly addressing Cruz and friends, went to the media. He said that the markets will suffer and react negatively if the government continues to be closed, and when the market did react negatively he blamed Cruz.

It of course had nothing to do with the President of the United States spelling doom and gloom for the economy. President Obama said that national parks were to be closed. National parks are mostly open air forests and fields, the park rangers were there anyway and people could have just as easily used them. The federal government does not fund nature. The point is, President Obama made this hurt. He made sure that he selected the right programs, and the right facets of government spending that would garner the most headlines, and that would cause the most public outcry.

But why? Why did President Obama and the Democrats lobby the American people so hard to put pressure on Cruz and his Tea Party allies to end the shutdown?

Could it be because it was working?

People saw how large and sprawling the federal government truly was for the first time. Many who never believed the enormity of it all were finally convinced that the leviathan that is federal government is simply too intrusive and too sprawling. The longer the government was shut down the longer that point could be realized. Through the media, and through moderate Republicans in the Senate the Democrats were able to force the Tea Party Republicans to cave to pressure and relent. Under the guise of saving the government, and under the guise of saving the economy, President Obama beat down the opposition to his intentions and rested the power of the purse away from the legislative branch in an unprecedented power grab.

In “The Art of War,” Sun Tsu says that a truly effective manner in destroying an enemy camp is to light a fire at the center of the camp, stand at a distance, and watch it consume itself. That is what President Obama and the Democrats did with their political maneuvering to reopen the government.

Before the people realized that they could do many of the things the federal government could, before the states began filling the shoes once held by Congress and the various departments, President Obama and the Democrats needed to start a fire. So they put pressure on the establishment Republicans who outnumber the Tea Party insurgents, and the establishment Republicans rammed home a deal to the liking of their Democratic allies. To the establishment Republicans and Democrats, it was status quo-bellum and then some. Democrats were resting on their laurels, while the establishment Republicans turned their eyes on their own party.

The Republicans are now in what is for all intents and purposes, a civil war. They have suffered a major defeat at the hands of their enemies, and they are looking to punish the faction within their party that was responsible for this massive loss of face.

So the Democrats get what they want and more, and the Republican Party goes to war with itself and consumes all of its energy fighting one another while the Democrats go on quietly expanding the size and authority of the federal government.

But people have started to take more notice of the Tea Party. If they play their cards right, and by cards that means the media, they can show the American people that they are willing to make stands in the name of limiting government expansion and control. They have made it clear to American conservatives that the establishment Republicans are willing to compromise on their values, and they have made it clear that they are willing to adhere to their own principals and pay the price for it. Democrats have scored a major victory here, but Republicans have shown that they are more worried about keeping the status quo than they are about practicing the conservative values of the people who elected them.

This is not the end of the Republican party, but perhaps a shift. If the Tea Party wins this “civil war” then they can truly make strides in limiting the power of the federal government and the role it plays in our everyday lives. If they lose, the Republican party will progress as a shell of an organization, subject to the whims and desires of the Democrats who know how to play them like a fiddle.

Perhaps next we can tackle how to go about trimming the federal government and restoring the rights of the individuals and the states, so maybe next time the government is shut down we can’t be scared into caring as much. 

 


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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