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The GOP’s Shutdown Zealotry: What John Boehner and Yasser Arafat Have In Common

| October 3, 2013

What would Lincoln do? (Wayan Vota)

What would Lincoln do? (Wayan Vota)

At this point, you certainly don’t need me to tell you how much damage is being done to our country by the group of right-wing zealots in Washington who call themselves legislators. This nation elected a president who, in his first term, signed into law a sweeping health-care plan that, among other things, provides medical insurance for millions of people who previously could not afford it. The law is not perfect, as one might expect of such a transformative piece of legislation, but it is a huge step forward in addressing not only the shameful reality of 45 million uninsured people in the richest country on earth, but also the skyrocketing costs of medical care for everyone.

We then re-elected this president, by a substantial margin. To a great extent, granting a second term to Barack Obama was a referendum on his signature piece of legislation. He has a clear mandate to press forward with the Affordable Care Act. Nevertheless, the Republican Party, captured by its most extreme element, is determined to undermine a law that was ruled constitutional by a Supreme Court whose own dominant political persuasion is to the right of center.

The shutdown of much of the federal government is a lot more serious than just having to cancel that trip to Yellowstone. The National Institutes of Health told ABCNews.com that 10 children with cancer won’t be able to begin their clinical trials, and the Washington Post reported that 19,000 children in 11 states will be deprived of access to Head Start programs, leaving their working parents with no childcare option. But the extremists may not be satisfied with putting 800,000 public employees out of work. They may also decide to allow the U.S. to default on its credit obligations, which could set the table for a global economic catastrophe.

All of this is being orchestrated by radical Republicans who represent districts that have been gerrymandered to ensure that they face virtually no opposition—including our own 6th Congressional District, which includes all of Flagler County, and is represented by Ron DeSantis, one of Congress’ tea party zealots. So, voters in those districts never get to hear that they are overwhelmingly among the number of Americans who stand to benefit from the Affordable Health Care law. The far right, through its house organs Fox News and talk radio, has persuaded many working-class Americans that “Obamacare” is a handout to people too lazy to work or even look for work. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I know that many on the right consider The New York Times to be the official voice of socialism in America, but I would suggest that, to truly understand the facts of health care in this country, this morning’s column by Eduardo Porter should be required reading. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.” And here are the facts as outlined by Porter:

“Almost two-thirds of uninsured Americans have a full-time job … A further 16 percent are employed part time. The Department of Health and Human Services recently estimated that nearly six in 10 uninsured Americans could qualify for health coverage in the insurance market for less than $100 per person per month.” Porter continues by pointing out that some eight million uninsured “earn more than twice the poverty level of $47,100 for a family of four.” Deadbeats looking for a freebie? I don’t think so. This represents a broad swath of the American populace—maybe even someone you know. Or maybe you.

Porter sums it up: “As it turns out, the core Tea Party demographic—working white men between the ages of 45 and 64—would do fairly well under the law.”

So why is our country being held hostage by a group of extremists in the House, who may be nominally representing their districts, but not their district’s best interests?

I offered you the facts, and I invite you to form your own opinion, but here’s mine: We are in a new era of Know-Nothings (the name given to a loud political faction in the 19th century), in which people who have no business gaining elective office are occupying seats in the U.S. Capitol. These are the people whose agenda includes a denial of science—evolution and climate change are just liberal hogwash to them—and an embrace of conspiracy theories about federal agents in black helicopters that has them defeating any sort of sensible gun legislation.


It is difficult for people who consider themselves progressive thinkers to deal with this sort of ignorance. But our nation is in crisis not because of the Know-Nothings, who are always out there, but because people who know better are afraid to hold them to account. Instead of parking the extremists in a dark corner where they belong, legislators like John Boehner have allowed them to take over one of our two major political parties because they fear for their own jobs in districts that they used to think were “safe.”

Pardon the awkward segue, but it was often said of Yasser Arafat that the reason he could never achieve any real peace with Israel is because he cared more about his own survival than about the survival of the people he represented. Fearing he would face the same fate as that of Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian leader assassinated in 1981 for signing a peace treaty with Israel, Arafat forfeited any claim to being a statesman and instead became just another political hack.

I don’t think the legions of Republicans-Who-Know-Better fear for their lives at the hands of the Tea Party, but they definitely have consigned themselves to the dust bin of political hacks, and in so doing have done grave damage to our nation.

Steve Robinson moved to Flagler County after a 30-year career in New York and Atlanta in print, TV and the Web. Reach him by email here.

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17 Responses for “The GOP’s Shutdown Zealotry: What John Boehner and Yasser Arafat Have In Common”

  1. A.S.F. says:

    A “hot” microphone recently recorded two lead Republicans, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, discussing their party’s “political strategy” in the wake of this government shutdown. In their never-neverland world of what Conservatives feel is politically correct, it is OK to try to spin this awful travesty that they are forcing on all of us into a talking point for their driving need to stop national healthcare reform at all costs. It doesn’t seem to matter to them in the least how this might weaken our country’s economy or how many people will suffer. They will do anything, and I mean anything, to try to undermine Obama’s legacy and drag us back into the sort of stone-age thinking that the extremists in their party revel in. People will not be receiving their paychecks. Clinical trials for desperately ill people will stop. Head Start will come to a grinding halt, along with countless other government services that people depend on. Businesses involved in government funding will not be getting paid either–So much for the Republican and Tea Party great concern for the American Businessman, let alone the Consumer. We look like grumbling idiots to the rest of the world because, quite frankly, that is how we are acting. Our government has been hijacked by neoconservative crazy people who have no business being ushers in the halls of Congress, let alone representatives of that body. In fact, the Ushers would probably do a better job of governing. They, at least, would be somewhat in touch with the concerns of the majority of Americans, who, after all, elected Obama twice, in no small part because of his stand on the need for Healthcare Reform.

  2. I/M/O says:

    These people who have been elected to the House of Representatives by millions of voters in their Congressional Districts you state are “Zealots?”

    The 80 so called Tea Party House members were all elected with at least 65% of the vote.

    It is estimated there are approximately 639,000 people in each Congressional District. Multiply 639,000 by 80 you get a little over 51.1 million people. 65% you get 33.2 million people.

    So are those 33.2 million voters Right Wing Zealots or American citizens voting their principals and conscience?

    • A.S.F. says:

      I/M/O says–I believe many of them are scared and misinformed. I believe some of them have been blinded by their prejudices but can’t be honest with themselves or anyone else about it so they have to pretty it up with patriotic slogans and American Flags.. Too many have fallen into the trap of thinking they can promote and protect their own interests by stopping progress in its tracks and turning a blind eye to the needs and suffering of others.. And I believe some of those wonderful Tea Party Representatives have been gerry-mandered in. The rest of us are at fault for letting these elements gain such an appalling foothold on our system of government. Shame on all of us!

  3. tom jack says:

    [tom, every single one of your facts in the very first line of your comment is wrong. Example: the poll shows 44 percent of respondents blaming Republicans for the shut-down, and 35 percent blaming Obama and the Democrats, while 43 percent of respondents APPROVE of the health care law. No idea where you got your numbers. Here’s the CBS poll you’re allegedly referring to. Please don’t disseminate demonstrably false information in comments. Thanks.–FL]

    These are also the Facts Steve: In the latest CBS poll 76% of respondents do not want this law. The blame for the shutdown was 37% on Republicans and 34% on non negotiating Obama and the Democrats within the 3% margin of error basically showing equal blame The house has passed legislation to fund the The National Institute of Health so the children CAN get their cancer treatment, but your beloved Harry Reid said and I quote ” Why would we want to help 1 child with cancer” before he killed the legislation. Open National Park Monuments that have never been closed during any of the previous shutdowns have been ordered shuttered directly from the White House according to National Park employees who also stated their bosses told them the White House wants to inflict as much pain on the public as possible. Over the past several months business from Home Depot to some of the largest hospitals in the country have laid off thousands because they cannot affod them under this law. Thousands of other businesses have cut their employees hours to less than 30 simply to avoid this law as well. I suppose you support locking out the greatest generation from the WWII memorial as Herr Obama is continuously attempting to do to no avail as this generation of 80 and 90 year old true hero’s will not put up with it any more than they would put up with Hitler. No Steve its not just a bunch of TEA party radicals that oppose this law passed by only Democrats after changing the rules to do just that, its a large majority of the American people. Just like Prohibition, this piece of crap will be removed from the American people by the American people and their is nothing you or your “progressive” cabal can do about it.

    • Nancy N. says:

      I think Flagler Live was generous in only calling you out on being factually inaccurate in your reference to the CBS poll. Pretty much everything in your comment is complete bull.

      Your supposed Harry Reid quote is completely incorrect – he never said the phrase you claim and the phrase “why would I want to” is being quoted out of context to change its meaning by GOP hacks trying to demonize him. Reading the entire context puts the statement in an entirely different light. Maybe if you watched something other than Fox News you’d know that.

      There’s no actual evidence of the widespread layoffs you describe, other than GOP reps running their mouth off and making unsubstantiated claims. Home Depot has been laying off workers because they are closing their Design Centers and other stores, due to the housing collapse.

      The vast majority of Americans, polls show, if you tell them what is actually IN the ACA law, without attaching the name “Obamacare” to it, actually support the law. It’s only when you call the law “Obamacare” that people oppose it. Jimmy Kimmel demonstrated this beautifully with a man on the street segment last week in which he asked people if they liked Obamacare. They’d say no and then he’d ask if they liked the ACA and they would say yes. Opposition to this law among a large portion of its opposition is largely based on irrational fear and hatred of the man whose name they associate with it, not with the actual content of the law.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well,
    The author is correct, the NY Times is pretty Socialist.
    All this and not one mention of what this will do to the debt and deficit nor the fact that we end up with 20M uninsured anyhow.
    However, he does throw in “climate change” (used to be global warming) and gun control along with Arafat!

  5. markingthedays says:

    Well stated, Steve. Signed, a self-employed white guy.

  6. Robert says:

    As usual you hit “them” square between the eyes.

    There are lots of “them” in this community.
    And don’t think that there aren’t plenty of “them” in Flagler Palm Coast that receive some sort of Federal Aid; you know the aid that is typically characterized as Welfare. It’s only called welfare when certain citizens receive government assistance, the “47%” or the “takers” as they were called.

    The root of this evil is the I got mine, now you can’t have any way of thinking. Anyone who has been around for a while has seen this act before.
    I have a nice home but I don’t want you moving into my neighborhood.
    My children have quality schools and facilities but yours can’t.
    I am gainfully employed with upward mobility but you have to toil in menial labor.

    Now it’s voting. My party wants to control all of government, so we are going rig the voting districts and also make it very difficult for poor people to vote.
    Healthcare. I have it but you can’t. And I am going to do any and everything to try and stop you from getting access to healthcare.

    A reporter once asked Malcolm Little something like “What is it that your people want? A paraphrase of his reply was, make a list of everything you want for your family and then sign my name to it.

  7. Nancy N. says:

    In the reference to Arafat lies the key to all of this…while the tea party are a minority within the GOP, if they are crossed they can be a force to be reckoned with and mount primary challenges that can be at best expensive and at worst a losing battle because of the rabidness of the tea party voter.

    Boehner and his GOP colleagues are playing a game of appeasement with the tea party to try to avoid provoking the beast within. Maybe they need to read some history to see how that is going to turn out.

  8. NortonSmitty says:

    A mere thirty Republican Tea Party extremists have managed to shut down the U.S. government. Obama should just tell them that if they do not back off right now, he will sign an executive order allowing us all to buy in to Medicare at government cost, cutting Big Insurance out of the deal like every other civilized government in the world. I mean if they are going to call him a Socialist for proposing Romneycare Nationwide, he might as well own up to it for our benefit and give those Teabagging bastards a real hissy-fit.

  9. karma says:

    Just look at name calling in some of the above post. Please remind me who claims their the civilized party and who complains about civility. What concessions have the democrats made so far? Or should only Republicans have too?

    • A.S.F. says:

      @karma says– Obama and the Democrats in Congress have bent over forwards and backwards (to the disgust of some of us in their own party), trying to work out compromises with the Conservatives for whom that word is equal to a sin against God. Obama has worked to appease Republicans, the insurance lobbies, the pharmaceutical lobbies, the AMA…You name it, he’s tried to work with all these groups, trying to appease them while advancing services desperately needed for the public good. But the only goal Republicans in Congress seem to have is to defeat him. They know that, if the ACA works and people get used to having it, the country will never go back. So, they will do anything to try to scuttle Obamacare (as they like to call it, as though it was all HIS idea and has nothing to do with the will of the American people.) They are willing to force a government shutdown over it. Now, they are beginning to feel some of the backlash. They are trying to calm the anxieties of scattered groups of favored constituencies by opening up drips and drabs of funding here and there. They are attempting to wipe some of the egg off their own faces, while pointing their fingers at the Democrats and saying–WAAHHH, THEY MADE ME DO IT, BLAME THEM. Because, that’s what bullies do. They crow jubilantly when they get away with their bullying tactics and cry like babies, deflect blame and try to run away when it doesn’t go their way.

  10. Rocky Mac says:

    Tom, I just read the CBS poll article. I must have read a different article than you. please go back and retread the article carefully. The 76% is referring to those who do not want this government shut down over Obamacare. A BIG difference than what you stated. Amazing how we read what we want to in these articles.

  11. Sherry Epley says:

    As usual, polls are only as accurate as the actual questions, and precisely how they are asked. The VAST MAJORITY of US Citizens LOVE OBAMACARE. . . they just want it for free! This from the LA Times:

    “Here are figures from Kaiser’s March 2013 poll:

    Tax credits for small businesses to buy insurance: 88% in favor.

    Closing the Medicare drug benefit doughnut hole: 81% in favor.

    Extension of dependent coverage to offspring up to age 26: 76% in favor.

    Expanding Medicaid: 71% in favor.

    Ban on exclusions for preexisting conditions: 66% in favor.

    Employer mandate: 57% in favor.

    If you agree with those provisions, congratulations: You love Obamacare. Yet when respondents are asked how they feel about “Obamacare,” they’re against it.

    The one provision that always polls negatively is the individual mandate (to actually require everyone to buy health insurance.) Unfortunately, the mandate is necessary if you’re going to outlaw exclusions for preexisting conditions. Without it, you’d bankrupt every health insurer in the country, because people wouldn’t enroll until they’re sick.”

  12. Jose Caniusi says:

    It is sickening to me that a bunch of pasty faced,bilious extremists have the arrogance to call themselves the Tea Party.
    The original tea party was composed of brave souls who risked life and limb to protest a foreign nation’s unfair taxation.Does taxation without representation ring a bell?
    Today’s version of the party would be better advised to adopt an image better suited to their views.
    I suggest a white sheet.

  13. confidential says:

    I totally agree with 89 year old President Carter when he just said in a Habitat for Humanity construction site in Oakland CA, the following: ” Carter said, that years of tax breaks for the wealthy, a minimum wage untethered from the inflation rate and electoral districts drawn to maximize political polarization have reduced the quality of life for all but the richest Americans”. Lets change this mess in 2014 by getting out an unseat all these obstructionist that want to keep the middle class and poor in rags!.

  14. A.S.F. says:

    The right-wing branch of the Republican Party has its own more moderate and sane Representatives on the run. They have shown themselves for what they really are: Uncaring about the welfare of our country as a whole and its people in particular; uncaring about anything except their own agenda, their own deluded sense of power and the special interests they represent. They have lost two elections in a row and have now decided that it’s somehow OK to stage a coup by virtue of taking our economy (and the everyday functioning of our government, upon whom millions depend) hostage. They have no morals and evidently no sense of responsibility for the damage they are causing. If I were a Republican, and a Tea Partier in particular, I’d be tearing the bumper stickers off my car immediately.

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