Congress’ Shutdown Follies Took the Fun Out of Dysfunction

stop_holding_america_hostageAmericans have displayed many emotions regarding the recent halt of government services, including anger. But The Atlantic may have put its finger on the mood of the American people during and after the shutdown: betrayal.

In her article, Molly Ball writes that “even before the recent government shutdown, congressional approval hovered around 10 percent, a minority thought the country was on the right track, and a ‘throw the bums out’ mentality was rampant.”

Railing against the “mess” in D.C. is a time-honored tradition for both parties. That’s pretty much business as usual, but the Republicans raised the ante to unprecedented levels by threatening and then using an extortive, hissy-fit strategy to shut down the government if they did not get their demands, mainly to defund Obamacare.

The shutdown “seeded a different, raw sense of betrayal by politicians; it left [average Americans] feeling freshly disillusioned, perhaps permanently so,” said Ball.

“Before, I took a lot for granted. I assumed it could never come to this,” said Cathy, a 53-year-old nurse with three children, quoted in the article. “Now, I can’t say that with any reassurance whatsoever …. It’s scary.”

Others expressed wonder that politicians would use ideology to force an unnecessary and painful crisis. “I didn’t know we could be in this predicament,” Mahogany, a 35-year-old consultant, said. “I didn’t know it. Now the trust in the government is just gone.”

The two women that Ball quoted were part of a focus group in Nashville that comprises “swing voters.” It’s known as the Walmart Moms, defined as women with children in the home who shopped at Walmart once in the last month and are thought to comprise 10 to 15 percent of the electorate.

If the Walmart Moms feel angry, frustrated and betrayed, has a point of no return been passed? And when did compromise, and thoughtful and collegial discussion become dirty words?

The Walmart Moms seem to have learned a great deal from the shutdown fiasco. “Holding everybody hostage is not the way,” said Elizabeth.

Ball continued: “Rather than throw up their hands at the mess, the women said they’d pay more attention to politics and try to get more involved to fix the problem. ‘We’ll be smarter next time. We won’t vote for somebody sitting next to a tractor just because we like tractors,’ said Karyn, a 25-year-old who voted for neither major-party presidential candidate in 2012.”

That might be one positive idea to take from this episode, but Americans are famed for impatience and short attention spans.

At the moment, about the only good that is coming from the shutdown saga is watching the Tea Party destroy the Republican Party while those left standing struggle to survive and make themselves relevant. But no, they are well and truly tone deaf: now they are blaming the shutdown on President Obama and the Democrats, while claiming they “fought the good fight.” Good fight? Good for who?

[Image credit: Stop Holding America Hostage by outacontext via Flickr cc]

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

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