Mark Lennihan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A park ranger, who declined to give his name, reads a sign announcing the closing of the Statue of Liberty, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in New York. Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a long-running dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law forced about 800,000 federal workers off the job, suspending all but essential services. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Whether House and Senate conservatives had started earlier with demands about Obamacare on the continuing resolution or asked for different things like a delay in the employee mandate first instead of outright defunding, this or another impasse was almost inevitable because of the deep-seated and yet-to-be resolved difference of opinion on the role, scope, reach and cost of government itself that so deeply divides the nation.
This has been coming for a long time.
There has yet to be a moment in this presidency when any effort was made to reconcile this fundamental argument or unify the people. Quite the opposite. Obamacare was the product of deliberately freezing out those who represent half the nation to achieve this president's vision of a dramatically expanded social welfare state. To expect any different reaction but eventual outright revolt by those so summarily and gleefully run over was a profound miscalculation that continues today.
Most historians agree that the Treaty of Versailles after World War I was so punitive that it actually caused World War II. Without equating conservatives with defeated Germany, that history lesson was lost on Democrats in terms of domestic and economic policy here after the 2008 elections. The arrogance of winners led to a dramatic reversal at the polls in 2010, status quo in 2012 and the seemingly irreconcilable standoff we now face. This impasse is the inevitable consequence of treating any perspective on limited — or even restrained — government with such utter contempt.
We have borrowed more money under this president than all the previous presidents combined. Regulatory barriers have crippled development or expansion of new business, there has been an almost inexplicable unwillingness to reform the badly broken tax code and on top it all — the launching of a new, costly and ill-designed entitlement program, Obamacare, on the heels on near economic collapse in Europe because of the debt produced by such programs.
Despite the narrative now being woven by the White House, there was no vote on Obamacare in the 2012 presidential election for two obvious reasons. Firstly, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney spent any significant time campaigning on this new law, for very different reasons. It distracted Obama’s campaign from their very effective efforts to misdirect the nation from the state of the economy while vilifying Romney. Romney barely mentioned Obamacare because it would invite comparisons — and briefly did — with Romneycare on his watch in Massachusetts.
Secondly, how do you debate a new law that has been sold with so very many sincerely uttered falsehoods — that cannot be proven false until the reality is upon us? Until now, the truth that millions of us would not be keeping our own doctors or workplace insurance coverage could not be definitively proven. Until recently, the wholly false promises that Obamacare would reduce family health care costs and spur employment were only assailed in predictions of conservative experts that most in the mainstream press attributed to nothing more than ideology.
But this cornerstone of the new European-style social welfare state that Obama so desires is but the flash point on his march to “transform America." It is a take-no-prisoners and offer no relief approach that disdains any attempt to bring the nation together through compromise or even symbolic gestures of desired unity. Such actions inevitably create reaction and that is what we are seeing today.
Unless and until there is some resolution of the central question of government's reach into our lives or a fundamental shift in electoral fortunes, this bitter standoff (and more to follow) is the new normal.
Ken Hoagland founded and leads Restore America’s Voice—an advocacy group of 2.1 million Americans who believe that the public is being ignored on important public policy decisions.