And so, with the clock ticking inexorably toward a shutdown of the Federal government, the principals in the drama continue their sparring. It's not so much a matter of the final number, given how close the sides are, but of ideology. It boils down to this: the Republicans want to cut the budget by cutting social programs. The Democrats want more structured cuts, across the board, including defense. The gap is small, in budgetary terms, but may as well be the Grand Canyon as far as party dogma goes.
The hour approaches, and with it, trepidation. What will the morrow bring?
The short answer is, not much. Some tings that are normally open -- museums, libraries, attractions, National Parks -- will close. Some services will grind to a halt. Many will not, being deemed essential to the functioning of the nation, like air traffic controllers, border guards, and the military. For the first 30 days, anyway, the greatest impact may be on the wallets of store owners and vendors, who will watch their normal, government-driven business dry up. The economy may feel a slight tug, but it will take time before the true impact would be felt.
Both sides know this.
The Democrats are willing to ride this budget down, because the Republicans have made it quite clear, both in their efforts in Washington, D.C. and around the country, that they are not interested in the general welfare of the American citizen, only the consolidation of their power, and the crippling of government's ability to regulate commerce and tax corporations and the wealthy. They know, that just as the Great Shutdown of 1995 hamstrung the Republicans, this, too, shall do much to put a dent in their credibility, especially when it becomes quite clear just how far in bed with the ravers of The Tea Party they are.
This isn't about money, about deficits, about budgets, or anything that is of great concern to the American citizen. This is a political bullfight, with President Obama as toreador, and the Republicans as a mad and irrational bull. In the confrontation, the bull feels he has the power to crush such a puny person, but the agility of the toreador more than makes this an even match. The fact is, the Republicans are desperate to halt the slowly building momentum of job increases and economic growth, for they spell the doom of a Republican campaign in 2012. If the economy continues to grow and jobs slowly become more plentiful, no amount of shouting at the rain will convince people to vote for their candidate. Having been so badly beaten in 2008, the GOP cannot afford a repeat performance in 2012.
Here they are, though, hoist upon their own petard. Three months into his tenure, Speaker John Boehner has brought nothing to fruition, watching his promised attack on so many of the 111th Congress' advances die on the vine, while the economy continues to grow, Wall Street continues to be healthy, the President shows some backbone overseas, and the jobs picture slowly improves. The shutdown is a backroom maneuver, a sign of desperation, showing that far from accomplishing anything in his term, the Speaker is willing to throw caution to the wind to simple halt the advance of the nation, simply to drive his party agenda.
It did not work in 1995, and it will not work now. The American people, many of whom slept through 2010 and allowed the Republicans their moment in the Sun, are now fully awakened by the reckless and impulsive and fraudulent attacks of the Republican Party on normal citizens. People in Wisconsin and Illinois have led the way, showing that the organized resistance of The People is not to be underestimated, and that they are capable of detecting fraud and malfeasance when they see it. The GOP, rather than getting into office, solidifying its hold on power, then slowly trying to push through its agenda, went for the brass ring almost at once, and got caught. Now, as they babble incoherently, and make themselves out to be the charlatans they are, they sit at a moment which will define the destiny of their party for decades to come.
Unfortunately, it is too late to prevent damage to their image -- the American people already have painted them as the couriers of intransigence. What the Republicans can do, is try to save face, to mitigate the level of the disaster. If they choose not to, if their brinkmanship continues, they stand to lose the grip on power they so recently obtained. Perhaps it is time to work on governing, rather than politicking, because time is slowly running out, and midnight is fast upon us.