When the federal government shut down on Monday night, it left a lot of people asking questions. What does this mean? How did this happen? How long will it last? But above it all rose the question of who would budge first.
The Republican House, seeking to tie preventing a shutdown to a provision that would delay parts of Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Or the Senate Democrats and Obama, who have shot down every version the Republicans have sent their way? For Republicans, who ran last election on a platform of defunding ACA and lost, this is a fight to stop out of control government (that they say Americans oppose) the only way they can: by shutting it down. Democrats, who have said that any deal that includes changes to ACA will be shot down, this is a case of Republicans neglecting their duty to run the government to continue a fight they have already lost.
It may seem impossible to compromise between two absolutes, especially in this political environment. The Republicans feel that their constituents want them to fight tooth and nail to delay ACA, and they are only further emboldened by the President’s delaying several key parts of the original law already.
The Democrats don’t want to budge on an issue they feel they have already won.
This wide gap between the parties is the problem. For the government to function, figuratively and literally, those at both ends on the political spectrum need to come together and compromise.
The American people are at fault, too. They elected politicians unable to find way to reconcile a wide range of beliefs to come to a solution, and it has devolved into a standoff.
It’s not that voters need to elect more moderate politicians; it’s that they need to elect politicians who are more adept at working across the aisle.
President Obama grew up politically in Illinois, where he never faced much opposition from an opposing party, and then had a supermajority in Congress for the first half of his first term. This is only his fourth year in his political career of having to be bipartisan.
On the other end, gerrymandering has created a House majority where most Republicans face a stiffer challenge in the primaries than the general election. This serves to galvanize opposition, not compromise.
This shutdown might only last a few days, but it is another in a long string of issues showing that the government is too gridlocked to get something done. It doesn’t show any signs of getting better, and it won’t until the American people make willingness to get things done more of a priority the next time they vote for a commander-in-chief and a Congress.