As of press time, the United States government remains shut down.
How we got here is long, complicated, and a little hard to pin down, but it goes something like this: Republicans in Congress threatened to refuse to fund the government or pay its debts unless they get something in return. For us on the left, this is proof positive of something that actually inspired this blog in the first place: we cannot afford to sit out on electoral politics because the Democrats are not progressive enough.
Let’s look at the story so far. At first, the fight seemed to be over the Affordable Care Act, Pres. Obama’s remarkably centrist health care reform (also known as Obamacare, Barack Hussein Obama’s far-left fascist attempt to take away health care and end American liberty). Republicans in Congress refused to pass any spending bills that did not “defund Obamacare”; Ted Cruz even pretended to kinda-filibuster, speaking for 21 hours against Obamacare while blocking debate on the “defund Obamacare” bill that he proposed, because we apparently live in a Franz Kafka novel. But the picture that seems to be emerging now is slightly different. Based on recent interviews and press conferences, it seems that the Republican strategy is to use a government shutdown as leverage when they demand something in return for raising the debt ceiling.
This being the Age of the Internet, the saga has been exhaustively detailed, and is way too elaborate, dense, petty, intricate, Byzantine, twisty-turny, and downright straight-up confusing to go into in any comprehensive way. Matt Yglesias at Slate has had great coverage, and Robert Costa of (retch) The National Review provides an excellent view from behind Republican lines. But while the context and details may be too much to delve into here, the basics of this unfolding story illustrate a critical point that we at Sewer Socialists cannot emphasize enough:
I couldn’t tell you how often we hear that Democrats and Republicans are the same. They’re both the ruling parties. They both serve capital interests. They’re all the same, they don’t listen to us, why should we vote for any of them? A pox on both their houses!
This shutdown should put that line of reasoning to rest permanently.
Don’t get us wrong, the Democratic Party is absolutely a capitalist party, with varying centrist and left-of-centrist elements. The Democratic Party has been too often in bed with institutional racism (see: Clinton’s expansion of the War on Drugs, Obama’s deportation policy), American imperialism (see: Obama’s drone policy), and misogyny (see: Bob Filner, Anthony Weiner, any pro-life Democrat), among countless other social evils. But it is one thing to say, correctly, that Democrats and Republicans are not different enough. It is another thing entirely to say that they are not different.
As we speak, one party is demanding political concessions for the continued functioning of the federal government. One party is holding the US government and the global economy hostage, and demanding as ransom that their (thrice-rejected) political platform become law. One party is intentionally inflicting pain on American families, hoping their hardship will force the government to give them concessions they could not win through elections. Their opponents may not be ideal, but that’s not enough. When you have a party that inflicts pain and shame on its own people because they want an extra bargaining chip, the self-righteous luxury of dismissing them evaporates. We can’t just ignore them.
We must beat them.