fresh voices from the front lines of change







According to anonymous Capitol Hill sources, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi cautioned Democratic members of Congress on Thursday against “gloating” over the spectacular crash-and-burn that was the Republicans’ government shutdown.

No gloating over the Republicans’ plunging poll numbers in the wake of this aborted coup.

No gloating over the widespread repudiation of their tactics by prominent public figures in a variety of fields.

No gloating over the public and private disarray that is gripping their party in the wake of this disaster.

No gloating over the widespread dissatisfaction that the Republican Party’s corporate sponsors have been expressing in the pages of The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

No gloating. Period.

We can certainly appreciate the minority leader’s position. After all, although it’s been a political disaster for the Republicans, the shutdown has also been a human disaster for a lot of federal employees, and for the many Americans who rely on their government to be there when they need it.

What’s more, it cost the American economy an estimated $24 billion, according to Standard & Poor’s. Consumers, who generate roughly two-thirds of the economy’s output, lost a great deal of confidence in the future as the result of this travesty. Investors, whose faith in the United States government has kept borrowing costs extraordinarily low for years, also lost faith as they realized how much power an extremist faction still holds. That’s going to cost us.

So the word has gone out: No gloating. Not even a little. Presumably that also goes for crowing, rejoicing, exulting, whooping it up, and rubbing it in.

Just so we’re clear about that.

Okay, then: What is permissible under the circumstances? “Explicating” should be allowable. This is – or should be – what educators sometimes call a “teachable moment.” This should lead a moment of clarity for the Republicans, the conservative community and the Tea Party. If they haven’t experienced that yet, allow us to be of service – with the understanding, however, that this is not gloating.

What it is is a last desperate attempt to speak to you as one group of human beings to another, in the hopes that underneath the veneer of madness there lie hearts still capable of empathy, of rationality, and – at a minimum – an instinct for self-preservation.

We also offers some “reminding.” To the elected officials of the Tea Party we say, you swore an oath. You have a responsibility now – a responsibility not to yield to your basest instincts, your deepest fears, or the shrieking voice of your Id as it cries out for recognition and ego satisfaction. This isn’t about you anymore; it’s about your country.

To the leaders of the Republican Party – to Messrs. Boehner and Cantor and Ryan et al. – we say, enough gamesmanship. You bear even more responsibility for this disaster then your Tea Party faction does. You could have stopped this at any time, and chose not to do so. Perhaps the political beating you’re taking now will offer you more illumination than your conscience was able to provide.

That’s not gloating, either – although it might be called “lecturing,” or even “hectoring.”

This should be an instructive moment for Republican voters as well. Whether you’re a business person, an investor, or just somebody trying to get along in this struggling economy, you – like the rest of us – took a hit because of the antics of your Republican Party. Come back home: all is forgiven. Provided, that is, that you’ve learned never again to vote for politicians who will work against your best interests.

And we close with some “observing.” This experience should be nothing short of a revelation for those pundits, officials, and other Beltway insiders who have been in assisting that “bipartisanship” is the path of wisdom. Those goals may be noble in principle, but there is little merit to be found in meeting the architects of this disaster halfway. It may be emotionally satisfying to seek compromise and consensus, but sometimes circumstances call for a very different response.

Compromise and consensus are good things – except when the moment calls for confrontation rather than compromise.

Yesterday’s deal will put pressure on Congress to cut even more spending, which would harm the economy even more, and to look towards a “grand bargain” that would cut Social Security and Medicare, leaving millions of Americans in even greater financial insecurity.

That battle will soon be upon us.

So there you have it: a little explication, a little observation, some reminding, and admittedly a little lecturing. It also seemed important to include a warning. But we’ve looked into our hearts, and we’re almost sure there was no gloating.

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