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Letter: Republicans' shutdown triggers host of questions

By Deb Hogenson, Brewster

Many believe the government shutdown is just another example of partisan gridlock and the failure of our elected representatives to act like grown-ups. While this is partially true, for the most part our nation has excellent Congressional representation similar our own Tim Walz. To understand the mess in Washington, you have to understand the two principles involved. One is ideological, and the other is rooted in Constitutional democracy.

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The issue of ideology is political in nature and relates to the Affordable Health Care Act. Republicans opposed the new health care law for reasons that reflect their beliefs about the proper role of government. Making this argument they lost the fight in Congress, lost in the Supreme Court and lost the 2012 election. Democrats, arguing a counterbelief about the proper role of government, won the vote in Congress, were upheld by the Supreme Court and won the votes of the people the 2012 election. So, on the principle of majority rule, “Obamacare” is the law.

The second issue is very important and deals with the nature representative democracy and our Constitution. The question, simply put, is this: “In a democracy, is there a proper way for a minority to force its will on the majority outside of winning an election?” The answer must be a firm no. To do otherwise would negate the will of the people as expressed by their votes. This is why President Obama has consistently maintained that there can be no concessions in exchange for Congress completing its basic requirements: funding the government and authorizing the borrowing required to finance the deficits Congress itself created. In doing this, the president is fulfilling his oath of office to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” It’s crucial that no president establish the precedent that Congress can extort policy changes on the threat of default.

The shutdown was forced upon the nation by a small minority. The Senate has passed a budget. There are, at this moment, enough moderate Representatives in the House from both parties to pass a clean budget bill if a vote came to the floor. The shutdown was forced by 215 radical-right members of Congress out of the 535 members of the House and Senate. Radical Tea Party Republicans have threatened Speaker Boehner with the loss of his office if he allows a vote, and Boehner lacks the leadership or fortitude to face them down.

I, like many citizens, are left pondering important questions. In a world as dangerous of ours, how long can we afford the Tea Party’s self-indulgence tantrum? What would be the potential consequences of a government shutdown should there be a terrorist attack? How long can afford to have the president divert his attention from critical foreign policy issues? And, what sort of damage will this do to our nation’s economy?