September 30, 2013

While the topic isn’t political dysfunction, the title of a new Sheryl Crow song applies perfectly to Washington right now: “Crazy Ain’t Original No More.” The battle over the budget and debt limit is the definition of insane: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In this case, the “same thing” means our government hurting — perhaps dramatically — the very citizens it was created to protect. But by now, it almost seems routine.

Republicans
The Capitol Building (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

However, this time, hours before a government shutdown, the two political sides seem eager to fight, eschewing the usual last-minute patchwork deal. House Republicans, led by a small group of members emboldened by the anti-Obama, anti-government sentiments of their constituents, are excited to have this fight. They are disproportionately powerful, not just for their swing-vote status in the House, but also because they represent the center of energy for the party’s grassroots and money machine, led by the Koch brothers. These interests are settling in for a long siege.

On the other side, President Obama is also ready for a political Gettysburg. The president, according to a top aide, thinks it’s time “to punch the bully in the nose.” This is how conflicts start and become destructive; both sides have decided it’s in their maximum interest to go to war. There is only one hopeful outcome in this otherwise destructive scenario:  The Republican Party pays a lasting price for its appeasement of its lunatic fringe.