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Michigan and the shutdown

A former student who shares my appreciation of history told me last night that he had found one high-ranking Republican who would have opposed the government shutdown. That gentleman, who once made a famous speech in Kalamazoo, told fellow Republicans in New York “I see that some, at least, of you are those who believe that an election being decided against them is no reason why they should sink the ship.“

That’s a good and reasonable philosophy of government. Unfortunately, the man who said that, himself a former Congressman, is Abraham Lincoln, and he happens to be dead. Lincoln said those words while struggling to save the nation from breaking apart just before his first inauguration. The fault was with Democrats then.

To an increasing number of people, the shutdown of the federal government today is the fault of the Republicans. To me, the nature of what is happening ought to be pretty frightening regardless of who is to blame.

Republicans in Congress are saying they won’t allow the government to be funded unless the President and Congress agree to stop the Affordable Care Act from taking effect this year.

What they are doing is the equivalent of a baseball team losing a coin toss to see who gets to bat first and then refusing to play.

They have every right to oppose what they call Obamacare. But when it comes to fair play, what they are doing is the equivalent of a baseball team losing a coin toss to see who gets to bat first and then refusing to play. In fact, there have been multiple coin tosses and what exists today isn’t a level playing field.

The box score looks like this: The health care plan passed three years ago. Next, the U.S. Supreme Court said it complied with the Constitution. We then had a national election, much of which was about this issue.

The President won by five million votes. Voters elected 25 Democratic U.S. Senators and only eight Republicans. And nearly two million more people voted to send Democrats to the House of Representatives.

But thanks to gerrymandered redistricting, Republicans lost seats, but still kept control of the lower house, which is how they were able to shut government down, a move longtime Michigan congressman Sandy Levin said yesterday was “blind rage fueled by their rigid ideology.”

There are some foolish Democrats who think this a good thing, that when folks this weekend find that they can’t drive along Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, they will punish Republicans. They may, but what’s frightening to me is the sense that people are losing all confidence in both parties’ ability to govern in their best interest.

A CNN poll yesterday showed that only ten percent of us approve the job Congress is doing -- their lowest rating in history. My guess is that will get worse the longer this goes on. The ripple effect from government workers no longer getting paid will begin to take a toll on our local economy, which was none too good in the first place.

The only way there are ever going to be any winners in all this if we ask ourselves how it was possible for our system to stop working, figure out how to fix it, and do it. Otherwise, next time a few closed national parks may be the least of our troubles.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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