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The three-ring circus of American politics

Walid Jawad

Published: Updated:

The circus that was the partial government shutdown and debt ceiling debate in the U.S. Congress was hard to watch. The ring master, John Boehner the Republican speaker of the House, commanded the three rings of the House, Senate and White House and mistook the jeers of the American people for cheers and the hysterical laughter of shock and amazement for support until the very last possible moment before the tent of the U.S. economic structure was about to tumble down onto everyone’s head.

The absurdity of what happened in Congress over the budget; i.e. debt ceiling and partial government shutdown, might be a preview for what’s to come. For the past three years the Republicans have been pushing for their legitimate ideology in a twisted fashion as the Party’s leaders tried to capitalize on the Tea Party movement. Instead of co-opting the grassroots movement, the Republican leadership had to pander to the movement’s vocal minority; enter Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul.

Cruz, although vocal, was unable to impose his will on the Democratic controlled Senate, so he played the role of the Wizard of Oz. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the fable, Oz proclaimed wisdom, knowledge and power, but in reality he was a buffoon. Dorothy, the duped heroine, sought out the wizard for help only to find a trickster playing the role of a wizard. As such, Cruz professes to have the answer the American people are seeking; how to strike the right balance for an effective and efficient government working for all citizens within the constitution. Obviously, this is a tall order, or just about impossible to achieve. The fact of the matter is that efficiency and effectiveness mean different things to different people. This inherent illusiveness of the goal has only made the country stronger over the years, but it is no longer the case today with the likes of Cruz and his Tea Party caucus.

Holding the nation hostage

Disagreeing with politicians’ tactics does not necessarily detract from the honor of public service nor does it make them less patriotic than the politicians we agree with or support. But the failed Republican attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, by holding the nation hostage is raising some doubts over their intentions and loyalty to the nation. Senator John MacCain described some of his Republican colleagues as “wacko birds,” he further said in the aftermath of the budget debate that “it’s one of the most painful chapters that I’ve seen in the years I’ve spent here in the Senate.” It is rare for members to publicly criticize their own Party, but McCain is not the exception. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said about the extremist voices in his Republican party: “A number of us were saying back in July that this strategy could not and would not work, and of course, it didn’t.” This was echoed by Senator Lindsey Graham who said, “I think the tactical choice that [Boehner] embraced hurt our party,” he further pointed to the fact that the Republican “ brand name’s at the lowest ever.” Indeed, independent polls show the Republican Party stooping in popularity to the lowest levels ever recorded.

This path where the actual loyalty to country and people is second to self-interest fueled by a prepackaged, hollow motto of working-for-the-people is delusional at best and treasonous at worst

Walid Jawad

The minority Tea Party faction of the Republican Party is not heeding the calls of the majority. Cruz stated post-shutdown that “what I intend to do is continue standing with the American people to work to stop Obamacare.” It is hard to comprehend how he and his rowdy minority are willing to threaten the wellbeing of the nation for their narrow political goals. In fact, they are willing to bring down the American economic tent, leading to a destruction of the United States. The similarities between the Tea Party and emerging democracies can’t be overlooked. We’ve seen a number of emerging democracies with newly elected governments either turning their backs on the system that brought them to power or being ousted by another group all in the name of advancing the will of the people; which people, I ask. This is exactly what Cruz has proclaimed, doing this “for the people.” This path where the actual loyalty to country and people is second to self-interest fueled by a prepackaged, hollow motto of working-for-the-people is delusional at best and treasonous at worst. Either way it is indeed a “suicide pact” as Republican strategist Charles Krauthammer had described it. I have no problem with the Tea Party committing to a suicidal pact, but they have no right to cause a complete destruction of the system. As it stands, the equation is that these ideologues are committed to having it their way without regard to country and people; their way or the highway, and this highway leads to the end of the American way of life.

What next?

The American people now understand what this group is capable of doing, but what are they going to do about it. Typically, the American people are able to correct the course of the nation in the following election cycle; midterm elections are scheduled for Nov. 4, 2014. At that time, all 435 members of the House of Representatives are up for reelection as well as a third of the 100 Senate seats, not to dismiss the 38-member governorship and other public offices. Today, the Republicans control the House of Representatives. I would venture to say that if the midterm elections were to be held today that the Republican Party would have serious challenges to keep their majority in the House. But the American people don’t have to wait that long to signal their discontent with the Republicans. In less than two weeks, on Nov. 5, the limited off-year election of 2013 will be held. The race that is of significance is the Virginia race for Governorship (gubernatorial races) where a win for either party is a bellwether for what is to come in the 2014-midterm elections.

Elections cannot come quick enough for the American people to have their say at the ballot box. Likewise, a grassroots effort will take time to pick up steam and cause the desired effect. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the levelheaded Republicans in Congress to reign in the extremist faction in their midst and prevent further harm to the U.S. economy. I am encouraged by Senator Graham’s reassurance that tactics leading to government shutdown are a thing of the past and that the Republican party should demand of Cruz: “Don’t do this again, Ted.” If for some reason by Jan. 15, when the government will run out of money, we have a repeat of the circus in congress, the American people will make Republicans pay the ultimate political price in midterm and presidential elections.

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Walid Jawad is a former Senior Policy Analyst at U.S. Department of State and a former Washington, DC correspondent. He covered American politics for a number of TV outlets since 1997. Walid holds an undergraduate degree (B.A) in Decision Science and Management Information Systems and a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. You can follow him @walidaj

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