A Fundamental Challenge to Democracy

We are now in the seventh day of a government shutdown imposed by the House Republicans because the president and the Senate refuse to submit to their blackmail by repealing or delaying the Affordable Care Act. Now the Republicans are threatening to cause the country to default on our debt by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless the president and the Senate surrender to further blackmail by not only repealing or delaying the Affordable Care Act but also by submitting to further, as yet unspecified, demands.

What is fundamentally at stake is the very idea of democratic government. Whether the particular hostage is the continuing resolution to re-open the government or the raising of the debt limit, governing by blackmail is fundamentally destructive to America's form of democratic government. If the majority in our government, which was duly elected last November, surrenders to the will of the minority in this situation, when would it ever stop? Why shouldn't the Democratic majority in the Senate play the same game? Where would the country be if the Senate Democrats refused to pass a budget to re-open the government and threatened to cause a default on the debt unless the Republicans agreed to a strong gun safety bill, a liberal immigration bill, and a bill liberalizing union organizing laws?

The ongoing blackmail is reminiscent of 1930s gangster films, "That's a nice government you've got there. That's a nice economy you've got there. It would be a pity if it should happen to blow up if you don't pay us off by giving us what we want."

Government by blackmail is incompatible with democracy. If the House Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they should make their case to the American people and elect a president and a majority in both Houses of Congress prepared to do that. The last time Republicans ran on that agenda, they lost.

The Affordable Care Act was passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by President Obama. The president campaigned for reelection on the platform of its implementation -- the Republicans campaigned against implementing it. The choice was clear to the voters who chose to reelect both the president and a Democratic Senate majority. If the minority is able to successfully undo the Affordable Care Act by blackmail, it will be the undoing of the democratic nature of our government.

Ultimately, this issue will be resolved when House Republicans drop their blackmail demands and allow us to debate the very important issues of the day, none of which should be allowed to undermine our great democracy.

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