If the Tea-Party-dominated, no-tax-increase-under-any circumstances Republicans in Congress do not vote to raise the debt ceiling by August 2, they may finally be granted their ultimate wish to "get the government out of [their] lives" -- completely. It is perhaps only then that these ideologues will realize how much of their daily lives are actually dependent on "the government" being able to do the multitude of things it does for "the American people," and how our free democratic society cannot function without a properly funded "government."
It is one thing to continue to spout intransigent dogma; it will be quite another to have to deal with the ultimate reality of the actual damage following through with shutting down the government and ruining our financial standing in the world will bring. The FBI, the FAA, FEMA, the U.S.Postal Service, FDIC, Social Security, Medicare, the federal judicial system, college loans, regulating the safety of food, drugs and our drinking water -- are all "the government." Try living without them even for a few days, and we'll see how you all feel about having the government out of your life.
I think that just like a lot of socially progressive, fiscally moderate people in America -- the majority of people in this country -- I say to these Tea Partiers, we've had enough of your ridiculous antics; it's time to stop trying to ignorantly drive our country off a cliff.
The sheer hypocrisy and inconsistency of the various positions taken by the Tea Party are just incredible. On the one hand, they "don't want the government telling them what to do" and "want government out of their lives." On the other hand, they want their even more intrusive version of "government" to regulate the choices that women can make with regard to their bodies and lives, dictate whom people can choose to marry, void the ability of workers to organize and collectively bargain, and inject the teaching of solely religious concepts such as "intelligent design" into school curricula. Wasn't this country founded on the principles of religious freedom and the separation of church and state? Try telling that to potential Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry who is, of course, organizing a huge Christian "Day of Prayer."
To see how we got here, let's look at -- and confront -- some actual realities. The United States is a fantastic melting pot, the first and most ambitious social experiment in human history where people from almost every culture and religion in the world have come together to live, work, co-exist, share -- and meld. And on top of that, we now live in a world of ever expanding global communication and connectivity, which will make the world even smaller in years to come. To many this scenario is exhilarating, exciting and hopeful. But, unfortunately, to a large segment of the American population, this change absolutely scares the crap out of them. These people grew up in a country where white Christians dominated the population, and they long for the "good old days" where the Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Latinos, Irish Catholics, Asians and other minorities "knew their place" and pretty much socialized amongst themselves, where pop culture was safe and harmless, and where American life was idealized like a Norman Rockwell painting. These "Whites" controlled everything and life on top was good for them.
Then something happened and things changed so fast that it literally caught them off guard. Somehow while they were sleeping, "The Others" had taken over and the Whites were on the fast road to becoming a minority themselves. Latinos took over many of the manual labor jobs that hadn't yet been shipped overseas, women were holding positions of high executive authority, and brilliant and hardworking Asian, Indians and other minorities were occupying many spots in institutions of higher learning. And the Whites became terrified that their long dominance of all things American would soon come to an end.
And then, suddenly, the previously unfathomable happened; an African American (whose father was actually an African) with a Muslim name was elected president of the United States. To these terrified Whites, this became the symbolic sum of all of their fears. What had happened to the country they knew and loved and had become so comfortable controlling for so long? Whatever it was, one thing was clear to them. They needed to "take their country back" from the nameless Others who they perceived were taking it away from them as embodied by this interloper Barack Obama. And, as candidate Obama astutely and accurately, but perhaps imprudently politically, recognized, "it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Meanwhile, the Republican Party figured out that their ticket to gaining and maintaining their power and influence was to keep people scared with easy to understand oversimplified, dumbed-down sound bytes amplified by loudmouthed talk-show hosts and Fox News. As incredible as it may seem, the Republicans used this tactic and others to get a large part of the American population to vote completely against their own self-interests. And seeking to expand their base, the Republicans embraced the Tea Party and all of their craziness with open arms. As a result, they convinced every "Joe The Plumber" dreaming he will one day become rich that he needs to stand up to the "government" which is going to some day take his hard-earned over $250,000 a year, job-creating, dollars (which, of course in reality he will probably never actually ever make).
Wherever possible, the Republicans have been attempting (in many instances successfully) to change the rules and laws to make it increasingly difficult for young people and minorities (who by large measure usually vote Democrat) to cast a vote, and they want to use extreme measures to deport illegal immigrants (many of whom have been working hard in this country for years) rather than giving them a path to citizenship. And it seems they have no actual interest in supporting public education reform and financing in this country perhaps because they realize that uneducated are much less likely to look behind their sound bytes, and explore and digest the substance of the real issues. They know all too well that by keeping people dumb, fearful and focused on religion and social issues 24 hours a day, a large segment of the American population can be much more easily "controlled" and thus susceptible to easy manipulation and dependency. (Similar strategies have been used by many totalitarian regimes throughout history).
So maybe, just maybe, we are now finally at a turning point. The debt ceiling negotiations fiasco has now shown a bright spotlight on the Tea Party and their tactics, making it clear that in hijacking the Republican Party, they are potentially taking this country into dangerous, uncharted territory.
What is clear is that the many moderates and progressives in this country who have been up until now watching the Tea Party and their tactics with bemused detachment from the sidelines may have finally had enough. They are starting to see that it's time to arise from their slumber before it's too late and take their country back from these irresponsible ideologues (and the rich corporate titans and interests behind the Tea Party who are backing them). They are driving us right to the precipice -- beyond which may lay a place of no return. As an understandably exasperated President Obama has experienced firsthand, the new Republican Tea Party has no interest in governing based on reality or compromise -- and the time for trying to negotiate at all with these people is now over.
Follow Fred Goldring on Twitter: www.twitter.com/labluedevil