Tyranny Of The Minority

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) watches as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) addresses the press following a House Republican party meeting on Capitol Hill earlier this week. (JASON REED/REUTERS/Newscom)
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) watches as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) addresses the press following a House Republican party meeting on Capitol Hill earlier this week. (JASON REED/REUTERS/Newscom)

The government shutdown, which is now in its second week, is an outrage. And the continued dysfunctionality of the legislative branch of our federal government is an embarrassment. With accusations, threats and sound bites being exchanged by frustrated leadership on both sides, one sometimes loses focus on the real culprits in this sad story.

The truth is, we are being held hostage by some 40 Tea Party Republicans, whose allegiance to their ideology surpasses their interest in democracy or the public good. So, with their narrow focus on the evils of the Affordable Care Act and their commitment to stymy anything associated with President Barack Obama, the Tea Party faithful have forced what the local media has labeled a “shutdown breakdown.”

Government funding bills are not rocket science. And in the absence of a manufactured crisis, a “clean bill” would have sailed through Congress this year, as it does almost every year. Thus, while politicians may have legitimate differences of opinion on programs, focus and the proper functioning of government, all used to agree that it was best to argue about those things while the government was actually still operating. Not so for the Tea Party faithful. They saw an opportunity for making another grand statement and grabbed it. And in the process they have caused more hardship, displacement and waste than even they likely imagined.

Our Jewish community has made the best of the situation by offering financial help for those who need it and by opening synagogue doors and school study halls for those affected to gather socially or to use the extra time for Torah study. While these responses are constructive, they should not lull us into forgetting how nearly unprecedented the situation is. In very simple terms — the shutdown is a mess.

Next up is the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Will this piece of routine business be turned into another manufactured crisis? In addition to hurting or inconveniencing roughly 320 million Americans, the Tea Party minority is forcing attention and time away from the serious work the government should be doing.

It will be interesting to see what happens next. Some see a revolt brewing within Republican ranks against the Tea Party. That would be a good thing — for Democrats and Republicans alike. The two parties need to be able to do business with one another and to work through issues with good faith, compassion and reasonableness. That’s never been more clear than today.

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  1. It cannot be denied or ignored any longer. That Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is ignoring — and even openly dismissing — polls showing overwhelming public disapproval of the Republicans’ budget and debt-ceiling strategy shows that in Sen. Cruz and other Tea Party hard-liners, we are not dealing with rational people.

    Rather, we are dealing with a hard-core minority of irrational fanatics who are hell-bent on imposing their will on the majority, no matter what damage they create to the nation’s economic well-being — and that of the world.

    It is time to call out the Tea Party for what they really are: Extremist fanatics whose tactics — which are not supported by the Constitution — pose an existential threat to our 236-year-old democracy.

    The longer this fight continues, the more transparent it becomes to a growing majority of Americans that the Tea Party are a group of fanatics absolutely hell-bent and determined to stop the Affordable Care Act by any means necessary — even it that means bringing our entire economy and democratic system of governance crashing down — and in spite of having lost in Congress in 2010, having lost at the ballot box in 2012 and having lost in the Supreme Court in 2013.

    In a democracy, the majority rules, with our Constitution and laws providing protections to the minority from abuse and discrimination by the majority. The Tea Party minority in Congress — making up only 20 percent of the 435 members of the House and far less than that among the 100 members of the Senate — has turned that notion on its head, imposing a tyranny of the minority that the Constitution neither recognizes nor tolerates.

    Had these Tea Party fanatics been around in an earlier era (particularly World War II or the Korean War), their tactics would likely have resulted in their arrest and prosecution for sedition — if not outright treason. As far as I’m concerned, Sen. Cruz is an exremist and a demagogue — the kind not seen in the Senate since Joe McCarthy.

    It is time to end this unconstitutional tyranny of the Tea Party minority on Capitol Hill. They do not represent the majority of the American people — indeed, the opinion polls show that they represent barely a 20 percent minority.

    This is America, not apartheid-era South Africa.


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