My Shutdown Lament

I have a problem. My job is to keep up with the world of politics and then write commentary, explanations, and analysis that readers will find interesting, entertaining, or informative. Sometimes that involves big-picture looks at policy issues, sometimes it involves making pretty pictures (look here—I made maps!), but much of the time, it's about giving some kind of novel perspective on the things that are happening today, this week, or this month. I try very hard to always add something, to not just repeat what everybody else is saying but to offer something different, so that people who read this blog will come away feeling they understand the world just a little bit better. Perhaps I don't always succeed, and you may or may not get value out of any particular thing I've written. But what do you do when the news turns into some kind of hellish version of Groundhog Day, repeating the same abysmal scenario over and over, in which even the happy ending doesn't involve finding true love and better understanding of yourself and your role in the world like Bill Murray did, but at best a return to the status quo ante of mindless political squabbles and unsolved problems?

What, then, can I add about the latest twist in the pending government shutdown? How many different ways are there to say that the Tea Party Republicans are both crazy and stupid? How often can you point out that John Boehner is pathetically weak, quite possibly the most ineffectual Speaker in the history of the House of Representatives? How many times can you remind people of all the awful things that would happen if the government shuts down and/or we don't raise the debt ceiling? How many times can you scream at Republicans that they are never, ever, ever going to repeal the Affordable Care Act so they should just give it the hell up already? How many times can you cry that this would be an insane way to run a junior-high student council, much less the government of the mightiest nation on earth?

I don't know the answer. But the latest twist is that Boehner has surrendered to what E.J. Dionne appropriately calls the "kamikaze caucus" by announcing that the House will vote only on a three-month continuing resolution that funds the government but defunds Obamacare, and then send it to the Senate for its inevitable defeat. When Ted Cruz acknowledged that it would indeed die in the Senate, even he was condemned from the right for his traitorous toe-dip into the waters of reality. Ted Cruz! What can you even say about that? It's like the Cultural Revolution over there.

So this whole thing tumbles toward a shutdown, which will only be averted (or ended, once it begins) by Boehner allowing a vote on a CR that includes neither a defunding of Obamacare, nor a declaration that Santa Claus should give every member of Congress an XBox this year, nor an initiative to expand trade relations with Narnia. And then we'll do it all again a couple of weeks later on the debt ceiling. I suppose that one day our politics will no longer be gripped by this madness. But from here it looks like we're trapped in this nightmare forever.

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