Our opinion: 'Sabotaging democracy'
For those of you who think the shutdown orchestrated by House Republicans was a spur of the moment, last-ditch attempt to short-circuit the Affordable Care Act, you've got another thing coming.
According to the New York Times, shortly after President Obama was re-elected to serve a second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to formulate their "blueprint to defunding Obamacare."
It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy "that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans -- including their cautious leaders -- into cutting off financing for the entire federal government," wrote Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McEntire.
Deep-pocketed opponents of anything Obama actually created a defunding "tool kit" that includes talking points to deflect the blame from the GOP and on to the president and the Democrats, according to Stolberg and McEntire.
The organizations that are pushing the United States to the brink include Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, Freedom Partners, Club for Growth, Generation Opportunity, Young Americans for Liberty, American Commitment, 60 Plus Conservative, 50 Plus Alliance, the Conservative Action Project, the Traditional Values Coalition, the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Council for National Policy and Heritage Action.
And if you didn't guess it already, billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been doling out millions with their blood-stained fingers to fund the effort and have staffed various organizations with their cronies.
According to Stolberg and McEntire, a group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to non-profit organizations involved in the fight.
"Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman's legs during a gynecological exam," they wrote.
"We view this as a long-term effort," Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told the New York Times. He said his group expected to spend "tens of millions" of dollars on a "multifront effort" that includes working to prevent states from expanding Medicaid under the law.
"We want to see this law repealed," Phillips said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has been vocal in his contention that the Koch Brothers are the real power behind the shutdown.
In "Bernie Sanders Terrifies the Koch Brothers By Outting Their Role In the Government Shutdown," Jason Easley, writing for PoliticusUSA, noted the Kochs are opposed "to anything that empowers working class individuals, because they are seeking a new Gilded Age where the employer controls the lives of their employees."
Sanders told Easley that Texas Senator Ted Cruz is basically just the Koch's meat puppet.
"This has been planned by the Koch brothers and other very, very wealthy people from the day after Obama was re-elected," said Sanders. "Let us go to the extreme. Let us be prepared to shutdown the government, not pay the national debt. Let us use every ounce of leverage that we have. Even if it means catastrophic pain for America and the world, so long as we get our way."
Sanders maintains that repealing Obamacare is "just the tip of the iceberg."
The Koch brothers and their allies want to abolish the minimum wage, privatize the Veterans Administration and Social Security, end Medicare and cut Medicaid, and shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education.
"So what you are finding now is a continuation of the class warfare that has been going on this country for the last many years," said Sanders. "The rich are getting richer. Poverty, number of people in poverty, all time high. Middle class disappearing, and these guys using Citizens United and other forms are now banging away and doing everything they can to get more tax breaks for the people on top, and devastating cuts for working families."
Chris Hedges, writing for Truthdig, said the battle to defund Obamacare is just the latest front in the radical Christian right's war on government, which is on display in the House of Representatives.
This movement, noted Hedges, seeks "to destroy the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment, radically diminish the role of government to create a theocratic state based on ‘biblical law,' and force a recalcitrant world to bend to the will of an imperial and ‘Christian' America."
Hegdes, who wrote "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America," said a radical Christian ideology known as Dominionism, or Christian Reconstructionism, calls for the eradication of social "deviants," which includes gay men and lesbians, Muslims, liberals, feminists, intellectuals, left-wing activists, undocumented workers, poor African-Americans and Christians who do not embrace their interpretation of the Bible.
Dominionism calls for the reformation of our government, the media and our education system and the rooting out of feminism and the restoration of the cult of masculinity.
"The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it -- its leaders champion small government and a large military, as if the military is not part of government -- and its laughable pseudoscience are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous," wrote Hedges.
Dominionists live in a binary world of black and white and believe they are victims, surrounded by sinister groups bent on their destruction, wrote Hedges, and rage lies at the center of their ideology.
"It leaves them sputtering inanities about Barack Obama, his corporate-sponsored health care reform bill, his alleged mandated suicide counseling or ‘death panels' for seniors under the bill, his supposed secret alliance with radical Muslims, and ‘creeping socialism,'" he wrote. "They seek total cultural and political domination."
Hedges understands how the poor and disenfranchised can be attracted to the dangerous ideology preached by the Dominionists.
"We have abandoned our poor and working class. We have created a government monster that sucks the marrow out of our bones to enrich and empower the oligarchic and corporate elite. The protection of criminals, whether in war or on Wall Street, is part of our mirage of law and order. We have betrayed the vast and growing underclass. Most believers within the Christian right are struggling to survive in a hostile world. We have failed them. Their very real despair is being manipulated and used by Christian fascists such as the (Ted Cruz)."
Meanwhile, the shutdown plays into the Dominionists strategy, pushing the fragile economy back toward the financial cliff we teetered on in 2008. If the economy was to crash again, it would push even more people into the Dominionist camp.
House Republicans have willingly, sometimes gleefully climbed aboard the Dominionist wagon train.
"Their plan has been to carry out their agenda by using what they call ‘leverage,' forcing events to threaten economic and social harm and thereby extract concessions from President Obama without needing to make any policy concessions in return," wrote New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait. "To weaponize the debt ceiling, you must be willing to inflict harm on millions of innocent people. It is a shockingly powerful self-destruct button built into our very system of government, but only useful for the most ideologically hardened or borderline sociopathic. But it turns out to be the perfect tool for the contemporary GOP ...."
Chait called the shutdown "a domestic Cuban Missile Crisis."
"If Obama buckles his no-ransom stance, the debt-ceiling-hostage genie will be out of the bottle. If Republicans believe he is bluffing, or accept his position but obstinately refuse it, or try to lift the debt ceiling and simply botch the vote count, a second Great Recession could ensue."
Bill Moyers characterized Republican tactics as "Sabotage of the democratic process."
"Once upon a time when I was a young man working on Capitol Hill," wrote Moyers, "it was commonplace that when a bill became law, everybody was unhappy with it. But you didn't bring down the government just because it wasn't perfect. That was a long time ago. Long before the Tea Party minority, armed with huge sums of secret money from rich donors, sucked the last bit of soul from the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln. They became delusional. Then rabid."
He accuses the Republicans and their benefactors of being willing to "burn the place down, sink the ship of state, and sow economic chaos to get their way."
Another reason the Republicans and their benefactors are resorting this burn-down-the-house mentality is their fear they are slowly becoming irrelevant.
"Republicans are afraid that Obamacare will not prove to be a bureaucratic nightmare -- that Americans, in fact, will find they actually like it," wrote the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson.
If that proves true, it could be the death knell for the current Republican party, especially if you consider the changing demographics of the United States.
But while Citizens United remains intact, and further challenges to campaign finance laws are currently being heard at the Supreme Court, the monied elite and the religious zealots continue to exercise their outsized influence over the American political system. Even if the Republican party is bound for the trash bin of history, our country faces a defining moment forced upon us by those who believe they are righteously endowed by the creator to inflict their form of theocracy on America and by those who, by virtue of their enormous wealth, believe they truly know what's best for the rest of us peons.
We should be afraid, very afraid, that they might actually get their way.