10/01/2013 09:28 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2013

Kidnappers in the Congress

Let me get this right.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president on the promise to reform health care. Both houses of Congress passed the Affordable Care Act despite a cacaphony of Tea Party bile.
The United States Supreme Court, with five of nine justices appointed by Republican presidents, upheld its constitutionality. In November 2012, less than a year ago, the American public resoundingly reelected Barack Obama. More Americans voted for Democrats than Republicans in both houses of Congress, but Republicans held the House because of gerrymandered districts.

Republicans three times fought against the Affordable Care Act and three times lost.
(we'll forget the 40-plus futile votes against it in the Republican-controlled House.) Two of those times, the GOP was repudiated by the American public, once by a Republican-dominated court.

So just what is going on today as Republicans invoke everything from patriotism to the spectre of Nazi Germany in shutting down the country? Let try a different analogy: We are in the midst of a national hostage-taking crisis. And the victim is all of us.

Somalia has pirates who kidnap sailors at sea and hold them for ransom. Kidnapping has proven lucrative in Mexico and Colombia, too, particularly at times when crime syndicates exert their control.

And in the United States? We don't need kidnappers. We have the Republican House majority. Today, they've thrown people out of work, cut benefits to the poor, stopped some people from getting mortgages or passports. Tomorrow, or in a few weeks, they just might bring down the credit of the country, roil the world in economic crisis and throw us all back into global recession.

This is no joke. In fact, it's nuts. But I believe there is an underlying method to the GOP's madness. If they are extreme enough, if they are fanatical enough, if they compromise at nothing, they figure Democrats will eventually give them something in return. Remember the sequester? It's bad government, but today it also is also American law.

So what will Republicans really demand this time? Those deep cuts in food stamps already passed by the House? The approval of the Keystone XL pipeline? Elimination of the new federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? All of the above? The list is ever-shifting, and increasingly at odds with the concepts of majority rule and balance of power.

I hope the Democratic Party gives ground on none of the above. It's time for the Democratic Party and president to refuse to negotiate with John Boehner. He's a toady to the extremist wing of an already very conservative party. And if the American people get as angry as I suspect they will be in a few weeks, the dwindling number of more moderate Republicans, already showing signs of discomfort, will eventually abandon him.

Obama instead should spend his time making sure the Afforable Care Act exchanges work well. He personally should take time -- late is better than never -- explaining why the law will help the vast majority of Americans. He should keep telling citizens that ransom and blackmail should have no place in American politics. And his constituents should organize a huge, peaceful march on Washington that ends as a sit-ins at congressional offices.

Let's be clear. The congressional logjam that shut down the country today is not democracy in action. It's what happens when representatives fail to do what they're elected and paid for. It may be time for we, the people, to force their hand.