THE BLOG
10/17/2013 10:57 am ET | Updated Dec 17, 2013

You Can Breathe Now: The Real Lesson Learned

Last night on Lawrence O'Donnell's show on MSNBC, he was having a roundtable discussion with a couple of reporters about the vote by Congress, and as the segment was winding down Sam Stein of the Huffington Post jumped in. I don't remember his words exactly, but this is pretty close. "I would just like to express my great admiration to the members of Congress today whose actions voted to keep the United States government open and not bring the international financial world to ruin."

Profiles in courage, indeed.

Earlier in the day, before the vote, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) had said, "It's time for my colleagues to face reality." Noble and outspoken as that statement might sound at first blush, it's actually wrong - that time was a month ago. And even that's not quite accurate. The time to face reality is always.

I mean, seriously, debt default and potential worldwide financial chaos was a single day away! Financial markets were already spooked. It's certainly good to face reality when you're racing your car towards a cliff and you can see the edge and abyss. But man, is that who you want to trust driving your car again? Like, ever?

In the evening, President Obama gave an incredibly gracious speech, praising both sides equally, even the side driving that car towards the cliff. And he was right not to point fingers at that time, to not make this is a game about "who won" or "who lost." Because the thing is, the takeaway from all this is not "who won" or "who lost."

What the lesson learned here is about is the Republican Party showing the country who it is.

The United States government was shut down by the Republican Party -- and no amount of razzle-dazzle can change that. The Democratic-led Senate and the Democratic White House were not avoiding a vote to open the government. The Republican House was. Indeed, prior to the shutdown, many Republican officials (and supporters) were crowing and swaggering about how they were going to shut it down. A letter signed by around a quarter of all Republicans in the House was sent to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) about all this. No cowardly backtracking now can alter the realty.

A billion dollars was lost due to the actions by Republicans shutting the government -- at the same time Republicans were supposed so concerned about debt being too high. One would think it's near-impossible to talk your way out of that gross hypocrisy.

And it was the Republican Party that took the United States to the edge of defaulting for the first time in its history, risking world financial chaos.

All because they were pandering to their far-right extremist base, and gave Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) the keys. When it came time to put the nation first - over something as simple, as basic, as core as keeping the government running and not risking financial ruin - the GOP not only blinked, but shut its eyes. It wasn't that they didn't put the United States first, it's that the United States wasn't even on the list. The far-right wing of the Republican Party was first. And nothing was second.

The nation gets it. A Washington Post/ABC poll showed that 74 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the Republican Party is handling the budget negotiations.

Again, that's 74 percent. That's almost as many Americans as who like pizza.

Forget who "won" or who "lost." That's not an unreasonable discussion, but it's secondary to what's actually important. And what's actually important is that the Republican Party showed who it was.

And what it showed was reprehensible and horrified 74 percent of Americans.

A month ago, I wrote elsewhere that although the 2014 mid-term election is still a long way off, and so much could occur, what happens with funding the government and the debt ceiling will go far to determining that result. And if Republicans kept going in the direction they appeared to be headed, I wrote that the Democrats could win back the House. I got a lot of argument at the time.

I am no longer getting a lot of argument.

The elections are still a long way off. But you can be sure we'll be seeing endless ads that show Republicans strutting around, sashaying about shutting down the government and not raising the debt ceiling.

Because the Republican Party was showing who they are.

And who they are is now something else, as well: a party in serious trouble for its existence.

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To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about this or many other matters both large and tidbit small, see Elisberg Industries.

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