Some Washington "wise men" and other pundits keep talking about the current shutdown and debt ceiling standoff, as if there are two intractable sides that are equally culpable for "gridlock."
Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of the American people, and the majority of both houses of Congress oppose the Tea Party's shutdown of the government -- and threatened refusal to pay America's bills.
Poll after poll have shown that most Americans want the government to go back to work and believe that America should honor its debts. They don't believe these tactics should be used for any reason -- certainly not as a means to prevent implementation of the health care law. Just yesterday a new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) -- one of the most accurate polling firms in the last election cycle -- found that overwhelming majorities opposed the shutdown in 24 swing Congressional Districts currently held by Republicans.
PPP also found that the Republicans were in grave jeopardy of loosing control of these districts -- and the House as a whole -- because of their shutdown.
And, contrary to Speaker Boehner's assertion on Sunday's interview with George Stephanopoulos, there is clearly a majority of Members in the House to pass a "clean" continuing resolution that would put the federal government back to work -- and instruct the Treasury to pay America's bills. One hundred and ninety-five Democrats have signed a letter indicating they would support such a measure -- in fact it would probably receive 200 Democratic votes. And at least twenty-two Republicans have publicly stated they would do so as well. That adds up to an unbeatable 217 House votes (there are currently three vacancies making 217 the magic number for a majority). Assuming, of course, the Republicans still believe in the science of mathematics.
But if Boehner disagrees, there is a sure way for him to find out -- call a vote.
Boehner refuses to call that vote, because he knows he would lose. The bill would pass, the hostage-taking by his Tea Party faction would be over, and the Tea Party extremists would hold him responsible.
Boehner's refusal to call a vote on the floor of the House is all that is keeping the government closed. It is also the only thing that threatens the first default by the U.S. government in American history -- an act that could have a catastrophic effect on the financial system and the world economy.
In the end, the question is whether John Boehner is more concerned about being terrorized by a Tea Party minority or having a legacy as the one man who single handedly caused a world wide economic disaster. If he cares about this country, his choice should be obvious.
And the choice should also be obvious to the many Republicans who will almost certainly lose their seats in Congress if Boehner continues on his current path. If the Republican leadership wants to create the wave that could overcome all of their attempts to redistrict themselves into a permanent majority, this is the sure way to do it.
There are, of course, other issues where the problem is not "gridlock" but John Boehner.
There is a clear majority of votes in the House to fix the nation's broken immigration system and provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans. So far Boehner has been unwilling to cross an even smaller faction of anti-immigrant zealots like Congressman Steve King and simply call a vote.
The same goes for universal background checks on guns -- a proposal which is not only supported by a majority in the House but by 90 percent of the American people.
And the same can be said of any number of other proposals to invest in America's infrastructure to create jobs, and expand educational opportunity.
There is not "gridlock." That implies two large, intractable foes unwilling to give an inch. A small extremist faction of one party, in one House of Congress, in one branch of government, is holding America hostage. House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Whip Kevin McCarthy are simply too terrorized by that small Tea Party faction to allow votes on proposals that have the support of the vast majority of Americans -- and a majority of Members of the House.
If they persist, ordinary Americans could pay a horrible price. Already everyday people are suffering. Like the children who are not allowed to begin clinical trials to see if promising new therapies can stop their cancer -- or the people whose vacations have been canceled by the closure of our national parks -- or the hundreds of thousands of workers who have been laid off by the federal government -- or the tens of thousands of business owners who depend on those workers to patronize their cafes and stores.
Already America's reputation has been tarnished throughout the world.
The Tea Party Republicans in the House did not get what they wanted in the last election. They cannot pass what they want through the constitutional process in Congress -- so they have taken the country and its economy hostage.
There is not a chance that President Obama and Democrats in Congress will back down from their refusal to negotiate with these hostage takers because if they do, it will never end. Tea Party Republicans will take hostages again every time they have any opportunity.
Much better for them to be willing to tolerate some pain in the short term, than to allow a tiny extremist group to use extra-constitutional means to extort whatever it wants from the majority for years to come.
These people do not believe in majority rule. They refuse to accept the outcome of the last election. They talk endlessly about "constitutional government" but refuse to abide by the legislative process that the constitution provides.
It's time for the "chattering class" in Washington to drop the pretense that each side is somehow equally culpable in this "standoff" and demand that Boehner allow a vote on the floor for a clean continuing resolution and a clean increase in the debt ceiling.
Boehner calls that "unconditional surrender." Most of us call it democracy. #JustVote.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.