Civility on the eve of shutdown
It seems like only yesterday we were told that civility was essential to good government. Harsh words and martial metaphors supposedly created a “Climate of Hate” that led to murder in Tucson, even when the murderer was demonstrably ignorant of the supposedly harsh rhetoric and alarming map symbols.
But now that’s all out the window, at least where the media’s beloved Democrat Party is concerned. On the eve of a potential government shutdown, it’s a rhetorical free-fire zone for Democrats. Not a single whistle is blown as they call Republicans hostage-takers, terrorists, mad bombers, and murderers.
We might begin by noticing that the over-arching Democrat narrative – repeated by everyone up to, and including, President Obama – accuses Republicans of wanting to take health insurance away from the noble and tragic poor, for no other reason that pure sadistic evil. That seems like a rather – what’s the word? Oh, yes, divisive – tactic. ObamaCare has been wiping out health insurance plans left and right, but I suspect any prominent Republican who claimed this was deliberate malevolence on the part of the President and his allies would get a rather chilly reception from the press.
Likewise, the President and his party get to loudly declare themselves intransigent, without suffering any great criticism for their stated unwillingness to compromise. Try to imaging a Republican President or Senate getting away with that. Remember just a few weeks ago, when “obstructionism” was supposed to be the worst thing in the world? Democrats get to be as obstructionist as they please, while Republicans are harangued as gridlock gremlins even when they’re putting deals on the table and loudly declaring their willingness to compromise. You’ll never see a political debate in which the Beltway media thinks it’s acceptable for Republicans to reject all Democrat demands. They always have to be given something, which is one reason they tend to open political negotiations with sky-high demands.
Democrats get a total pass on the incendiary language they’ve grown comfortable using. President Obama referred to the Republicans as “hostage takers” and “house burners,” as if they were arsonists. A “tippy-top Democratic official” emailed Politico to say the Democrats won’t negotiate because it’s “time to punch the bully in the nose.” (As though the party that controls the Senate and White House isn’t a bully! As if the trillion-dollar health care takeover with billion-dollar slush funds is a helpless little thing, in danger of getting stomped to death by Republican brutes! Democrats have really internalized Obama’s irresponsible nothing-is-my-fault Empty Chair rhetoric, haven’t they?)
Senator Angus King of Maine, a nominal Independent (stifle your laughter) who causes with the Democrats says those who encourage young people to steer clear of their ObamaCare fleecing are “guilty of murder, in my opinion.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called ObamaCare opponents “anarchists who deny the mere fact that ObamaCare is the law,” possibly confusing them with the one person who most notably refuses to treat the Affordable Care Act as a law, President Barack Obama. As though any rational person thinks the alternative to a trillion-dollar health care takeover by a government that has to borrow forty cents on every dollar it spends would be “anarchy.”
At least Reid didn’t call them “teabaggers,” which is more than crass Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) could manage. In fact, she insulted the huge number of Americans who disagree with her on ObamaCare as Ted Cruz’s mindless minions, “tea baggers in his Tea Party,” taking extra care to separate her disgusting sexual slur from the correct name of the Tea Party.
Someone from the White House defended Obama’s refusal to engage with Republicans by saying “what we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest.” Who was that? Oh, just the communications director, Dan Pfeiffer.
Will the media blame these Democrats if their more energetic followers do something violent to strike back at those suicide-bombing, hostage-taking, tea-bagging terrorist Republicans? Of course not – the Left’s Climate of Hate is ubiquitous and entirely unremarked-upon. They can be as hateful as they wish. It’s taken as a sign of their passion and conviction, not a disturbing signal of incipient violence. Of course, there is a gigantic advantage for Democrats in being able to paint their opponents as subhuman maniacs with impunity, particularly when it comes to attracting the attention of the fabled Low-Information Voters.
Those who believe the President would always win a shutdown confrontation, no matter which party he belongs to, will be in for a big surprise if the Democrats ever again find themselves opposing a Republican president’s debt ceiling increase, as Senator Barack Obama did. If some future GOP president tries to implement spending restraint, and Democrats insist on a bigger budget or bust, you’ll be amazed how quickly “or bust” becomes a noble stand on principle. Those old enough to remember the 2013 brouhaha will be amazed how quickly bipartisan compromise once again becomes the sworn duty of the President. Republicans who use the kind of rhetoric Obama and Harry Reid are using will be labeled hatemongers so quickly their heads will spin.
Perhaps today’s off-the-rails rhetoric will backfire on Democrats. They spent the weekend running out the clock and refusing to hold a Senate session, leading House Speaker John Boehner to taunt, “Well, my goodness, if there’s such an emergency, where are they?” President Obama played golf. They might be overplaying their cards, and relying too heavily on the media doing their political fighting for them. Even some people who aren’t on board with Republican strategy are turned off by the assertion that we shouldn’t be discussing our runaway national debut during debt-ceiling negotiations. Shouldn’t we be able to discuss important matters of public policy without hysterical shrieks about hostages and bombs? ObamaCare opponents have been scoring a lot of points, while its defenders refuse to take the field.
Maybe none of that will make a difference in the end, because the shutdown narrative is too powerful, or too many nervous Republicans believe it will doom them. Average people tuning in at the eleventh hour may be unaware of the preliminary theatrics. They tend to regard a shutdown as a sign of official dysfunction; conventional wisdom says they’ll direct their ire at whoever the news anchors say is responsible. Will they remember how the last debt-ceiling showdown ended, how hollow the resulting Budget Control Act turned out to be, and how President Obama is recycling exactly the same talking points to manipulate public sentiment again? He would up getting everything he wanted last time, the economy’s still in the tank, and the national debt is still out of control.