How to Have a Tea Party: The Shutdown, Blame, and Legislative Arson

There is not enough blame to go around.

Usually, there is.

But not this time.

So stop saying. Stop believing it.

When people suggest it, remind them of the reality of the situation:

The Republicans — and Republicans alone — shut down the government.

And the Republicans are attempting to push our country into default.

It is the Republicans who are holding Molotov cocktails in one hand and a lighter in the other.

And now they are demanding negotiations from President Barack Obama.

But one does not negotiate with a belligerent drunk in the middle of a weeklong bender who is cackling amid the flames of a house he set on fire, all while he continues to shout threats that he will burn the house down if he doesn’t get another bottle of booze.

In truth, there’s really nothing left to negotiate. Obama, in negotiations, jettisoned the single-payer public option, much to the chagrin of his own base. And then the law was passed. And the Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional.

And, here’s the real irony, the entire thing — health care reform as it was passed — was based in Republican ideas.

That’s right. The Republicans shut down the government because their own legislative idea became law.

The individual mandate, which Republicans now view as anathema, was their idea, their alternative to single-payer, universal health care for all. It’s an idea that came from the Heritage Foundation, the conservative bulwark who is actually fueling the shutdown and its ideology.

As a progressive, I dislike the individual mandate. I think it is a false solution to our health care problems that is rooted in a conservative, capitalistic ideology. I think it sets true health care reform back by decades.

But, it is the law of the land. I have lost those arguments to my progressive friends and I dare not side with my conservative friends because I am not interested in joining an out-of-control, drunken temper tantrum that has cost 800,000 people their jobs, is threatening (again) the U.S. credit rating, and may well fracture our nation’s already fragile economy recovery.

So let’s be clear. I’m not an apologist for the ACA or a defender of Democrats, who have repeatedly capitulated to conservative demands. I’m more than happy to call out Democrats when warranted. They are just as much in the pockets of big business — notably the insurance companies for whom the ACA is an absolute boon.

But the shutdown and manufactured debt ceiling crisis?

That’s a Republican creation. It’s their mess alone. They have poured gas on the legislative process, tossed their Molotov cocktails into it, and are sending the whole thing up in flames.

And then, reeking of fossil fuels and smoke, they blame the Democrats and President Obama.

“He refuses to put this fire out! He wants everything to be destroyed! He wanted the place to burn down all along!”

All the while, they gather more fuel, more fire.

The shutdown isn’t a a function of how broken Washington is. It’s a function of how good the Republicans have been at breaking apart our representative democracy.

Of course, with Libertarians-in-Republican-clothing being elected of late, the shutdown shouldn’t be anything of a surprise.

When the Tea Party argues for a smaller government, what they mean is no government.

What they mean is unfettered capitalism that benefits only their benefactors.

What they mean is the fundamental dismantling of social safety nets in order to trap the poor in endless and deeper webs of poverty.

When they rail against Big Government, they are really issuing a rallying cry for Big Capitalism.

This is what happens when you elect people to Congress who believe that government, rather than money, is the root of all kinds of evil.

This is what happens when you elect people to Congress who don’t believe in government.

They attempt to bringing it down from the inside, believing themselves to be some sort of modern-day Samson.

It’s governance through legislative arson.

And if it goes much further, it might well be governance through sedition.

If they can’t get their way, Republican hardliners would rather see the nation burn, its economic recovery set ablaze, its progress reduced to ashes.

Maybe it’s because they think the Republican party will rise from the ashes like a phoenix.

If that’s the case, then I think they have the wrong mythological bird in mind.

The Republicans of the shutdown more resemble harpies, the violent and destructive birds who steal food from the hungry and shit on anything that remains.


(A previous version of this post included a quote attributed to Rep. Ted Cruz in an article written by journalist Chris Hedges. Hedges is usually a trustworthy source but in this case he got it wrong. The quote was a prank as one sharp reader pointed out in the comments)

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  • Charles Kinnaird

    Excellent commentary. Never have I seen so hate and heard such doublespeak as has been spouted by those aligning themselves with the Tea Party. I have personal friends who are in that camp, and I know their Mamma taught them better.

  • Ted Troxell

    The harpies bit is a nice touch. :)

    • David R. Henson

      I wrote that with you in mind, actually.

  • Y. A. Warren

    This is great! Throw those money changers out of the temple! Go, David!

    The Tea Party is a bunch of teenagers, “Give us the car keys; fill the car with gas. It’s none of your business where we’re going, what we’re doing or when we’ll be home. You can’t tell us what to do. By-the-way, can I have some cash?”

    They need to read “Lord of the Flies,” a great story on anarchy’s results.

  • William Smith

    I agree with your general sentiments, but I think you’ve been pranked on the Cruz quote. This was made up by a satire website.

    • David R. Henson

      Thank you! I grabbed the quote from an article by Chris Hedges, usually a journalist that is trustworthy and accurate. You’re right though. I will take that piece down when I am off my mobile. Thanks for the heads up

  • Frank

    The president and the Dems are ultimately responsible for the shutdown. Anyone who says they refuse to negotiate is not fit to lead. That includes any tea partiers who say that.

    • Sue

      Actually, the president has done so much negotiating over the years in office that the Democrats are annoyed. You can negotiate to a point and after that, it’s caving in.

      • Frank

        So its about pride? Or is it about principle?

        Negotiating is about sides coming together. If they hasn’t come together the more negotiating is needed.

      • Mark

        Do you REALLY think Ted Cruz and his Tea Party Republicans want to “come together”? Maybe the next time a government shutdown looms, the Democrats should demand mandatory background checks for all gun purchases and reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. Then let’s see if you feel the sides should come together over that.