This week’s government shutdown is the ultimate expression of tactics developed and employed by the far-right wing of the Republican Party for years — a deliberate gumming up of the government works, a worrisome conflation of austerity and anarchy. As President Obama and sane leaders in both parties seek to unlock the systems of government, they must find a way to get the government going again. But they must also make sure GOP hard-liners’ tactics aren’t rewarded; otherwise, they will be deployed again.
It would be a great mistake to view the shutdown as merely a symptom of gridlock or division, because that suggests an equal level of support on both sides. What’s most troubling about the recent actions of the far right has been its ability to get its way despite strong public sentiment in the opposite direction. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday showed that voters oppose shutting down the government to defund Obamacare by a 72-22 margin. Consider, too, that the same forces blocked a bipartisan compromise on criminal background checks for gun buyers that, according to a vast number of polls, about 80 percent of Americans support.