THE BLOG
10/17/2013 10:30 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Amateur Hour

And it ended, mercifully, no fanfare, no grand bargain, no remorse, and if you listen to the nominal Speaker of the House you would think no harm, no foul, we played a game and we lost, no big deal, you win some, you lose some, some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you. What is all the fuss about? We will just pick up where we left off, the government will open on Thursday and everybody can rest easy that we are back in business. The brilliant masterpiece of strategic political theater came in like a lion and went out like a...well I guess a lamb.

Ho hum, this is the new normal, political dysfunction 101. Create chaos, see if the whole thing falls apart, push it to the edge, and let's see if we can scare the opposition party into doing something stupid. After all, it has worked well with a large swath of the American people, scare them into voting against their own self-interests but more importantly completely reorient the meaning of patriotism. You can fool some of the people some of the time, why can't we fool all of the Congress all of the time? And this is what it has come down to: scare tactics as the foundation for public policy.

The new patriot hates his/her government, has no understanding of the U.S. Constitution, no respect for representative democracy, and is convinced that science, education, intellectualism, compromise, diversity, tolerance, compassion, and empathy constitute a grand socialist conspiracy to destroy a perverted American dream that resides in the demented minds of talk show hosts and pundits who spew hatred and venomous untruths that enrich their bank accounts and boost their ratings. Meanwhile, the country continues to slip into a cultural abyss that is inhabited by aliens, immigrants and temporary minorities. Patriotism requires we draw the line and keep America pure, a purity borne of backwards thinking, as in taking America back from those who have illegitimately stolen it, and back to a time that never existed except in the frames of 1950's television shows and movies. And this is today's Republican Party.

The latest installment of Amateur Hour in the Capitol may go down in history as the most disgraceful exhibition of government by temper tantrum that the civilized world has ever experienced. It certainly has drawn a clear contrast between the two political parties that should benefit the Democrats, although most of them would reject the notion that the price to be paid for such benefit was acceptable. The most enduring tragedy that the Republican Party has inflicted upon the nation is neither the gross incompetence of those leading the party nor the inability of anyone within the party to have the courage to challenge their inept leadership, but rather the furtherance of cynicism and despair that has already enveloped a substantial segment of an angry and disheartened populace. The drama on display in Washington, DC these past two weeks bolsters the growing notion that government is incapable of functioning, therefore who needs government.

To Ted Cruz and the other miscreants who plainly are gleeful for creating a public that despises its government, its institutions and leaders, you may reap some short-term pleasure in disrupting the lives of millions of Americans and bankrupting a nearly depleted political system, but long-term you may have rightfully relinquished your party to the same minority status you so desperately fear. Today's minorities are tomorrow's majorities, which stands just as true culturally as it does politically. Gerrymandered districts notwithstanding the despicable spectacle of childishness on display over the past several weeks may and should have more of an impact on the future status of the House majority party than all the scientific evidence and policy seminars that good government Democrats could muster.

And the sweetness of knowing that you, the Know Nothings cloaked in Tea Party ideological perversion, will bring the house down upon yourselves is deliciously ironic. This sad chapter in American democratic experimentation needs to come to a quick and violent end, violence, of course, in the political sense not the physical sense. The violent act of tossing an elected official out on his or her keister is crushing to one dedicated to public service, but with this amalgamation of misfits and intellectually-challenged, history-deprived, and one-dimensional lemmings I doubt they will even realize the gravity of the rejection. Ignorance truly is bliss to a great respect.

As much scorn as can be heaped upon the Tea Party, however, should not detract from the wholesale dereliction of duty to country that has been exhibited by those who actually know better and differed from their leadership on this thinly veiled excuse for a legislative strategy, and that begins with the Speaker himself who is so threatened by his lieutenants that he could not muster the courage to save his party. Moderate Republicans, to the extent that they are not extinct, stand to pay a stiffer price than the hard-core wingnuts of the Party, and that is only fair. Dante said that "the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality." One can only hope that those who could not find their moral compass during this crisis find themselves in the political equivalent of hell as next year's elections approach.

One political calculation might suggest that the American people have short memories indeed and by next November this will be a distant speck in the rear view mirror. But it is also likely that we will encounter either the same fights or knock-off versions of the same fights in the months to come. This will not only keep amateur hour a recurring theme as the mid-term elections approach, but will further highlight the bright line distinction between the two political parties. While this may be a net positive in the political sense, it will be a sad commentary on the state of our democratic experiment and will have devastating consequences for millions of our citizens and the country's economic standing amongst international lenders. The risk premium will become an economic fact of life that will affect all borrowers. While unfortunate, it is doubtful that absent a radical purging of ultra conservatives from the Republican Party and/or a significant infusion of intestinal fortitude and rational thought among its leadership we as a nation will not pay a heavy price for the foolishness that we have just witnessed.

True patriotism requires a reexamination of the circumstances which helped lead us to this current state of affairs. Devotion and commitment to effective public service is the answer and the real test of our strength as a nation requires a rededication to the value of an effective and functioning government. And that demands that we not allow our fears to overrule common sense.