Tuesday-Night Shutdown Reader: 'This Didn't Happen Today'

"Democracy requires accepting defeat," and other quaint concepts
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I am on the road and not in a position to catch up on the respective press conferences today. Thus, reader mail, much of it in response to the pro-shutdown messages I quoted yesterday.

"This didn't happen today." Source of the photo above:

I started to post a picture per day on my normally irregular Blog...Scenes from around DC from sites that are closed due to the shutdown.  Nothing shattering...the quality of life that we get to share but which, apparently, is not that important to some.

"Does it only matter if it affects you?" From someone with military connections:

I've got a question for those who think the shutdown is no big deal since it's not affecting them. Is the war in Afghanistan (which, yes, is still happening) no big deal just because you don't personally have skin in the game?

Ignoring all the other very real impacts your readers have pointed out - if the fear with ObamaCare is that it will ruin the economy, what sense does forcing 800k workers out of a paycheck to stop ObamaCare make? ...  

I guess that since the shutdown isn't affecting every single person directly, we can continue to just laugh this off and say "no big deal, how does this matter to ME?" Of course, most folks could say the same thing about ObamaCare too.

"Affecting more people than she could possibly imagine":

I read your blog regularly and this is the first time I've commented on something.  It is in response to a reader who was saying that most people aren't affected by the shutdown and the government workers will receive backpay.  The shutdown is affecting more people that she could possibly imagine.  And it's getting personal for me.

My 23 year old daughter who has a BA in Biology is working as a contractor in the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum Lab.  It is a full time contract for 2 years until she goes to grad school for her PhD.

She receives no benefits.  The only way she could think of accepting such a wonderful job offer was due to the ACA, she was able to stay on my health insurance plan until she is 26.  She will not get backpay because of her contractor status.  And I will pay her school loans, rent, and living expenses while the shutdown continues.  I have always had to live a frugal lifestyle, so it's not like it is easy for me to help, but help I will.

Similarly:

So how many furloughed workers/contractors/people down the pipeline thought they had good steady jobs such that they could set up automatic EFT payments for student loans/car insurance/electric bills and now won't have automatic pay deposited?  The banks will love collecting all those overdraft fees, won't they?

From someone who sells to foreign customers:

Republican extremism has impacted me: My clients are unable to do business overseas because vital approvals cannot be accessed even when the approval is already done, as offices are shut down. And court dates have had to be rescheduled after years of preparation because government attorneys are not present.

On Democrats as bullies:

I’m certain I’m not the only reader who threw up a little in my mouth after reading [a previous reader's] attempt to rationalize the GOP’s hostage-taking while scolding Democrats for being “bullies.” By what perverse twist of logic do members of a political faction who threaten to blow up the global economy because they don’t like a law that extends health benefits to millions of uninsured citizens become victims of “Democratic bullying?” The law survived a grinding legislative process in which the full fury of the American Right Wing was  unleashed to destroy it, it survived a Supreme Court challenge, and it survived an election in which “repealing Obamacare” was the centerpiece of the losing side’s campaign.

Truly, the only shame I feel right now is witnessing the tantrums and displays of self-righteousness and self-pity by what is likely one of the most privileged groups of people in modern history.

What will they give up that will hurt them? Prom a professor in the Midwest:

In all of the debt-ceiling, government shutdown argument, I keep waiting to hear from the people who argue that the debt is a looming disaster any statement of something they'd be willing to give up that works against their own interests or comfort.

I agree that the level of borrowing in the U.S. is a real concern, particularly as we face the coming retirement and military healthcare tsunamis. Fixing that will require, among other things, tax increases that will at least get the U.S. tax system back to its historical levels of taxation. It seems to me that anyone who isn't willing to consider this is simply not serious.

"Democracy requires accepting defeat":

As I have sat with my earlier comments on the subject, something else has come into focus. It's a corollary to your recent post which asked: What would the discussion have been had the Democrats acted the same way as the current Republicans in the face of the GW Bush tax cuts?  

Again, rather than look at how the reporting would have been different, let's look at what WAS different.  

The thing which has historically made this country's contentious form of government work is that, when a party loses, it acknowledges, respects and acts according to that constitutional decision of the people.  And so, when a victorious president puts forth legislative proposals, there is some recognition and respect for the legitimacy of his power.

GW Bush, from the 2000 election, was the least legitimately elected president in my lifetime. And although there was a lot of noise about a stolen election and the illegitimacy of it, the Democratic legislators, following Gore's graceful exit, nevertheless accorded him the legitimacy that the Supreme Court decision bestowed upon it. Constitutional processes were followed, and there was an answer.  And the effects of it were, begrudgingly, accepted.  And, so, the Bush tax cuts, although vehemently opposed, were enacted without all of the crap we are seeing today.

There is no question that Obama won both of his elections.  There can be no serious issue as to the legitimacy of his office, and respect for his power.  I gag at all of the Republicans standing up and speaking about their respect for the Constitution, when they refuse to abide one of the most important aspects of Constitutional government: when you lose, you acknowledge the will of the people; you accept that you lost. It doesn't mean that you give up on what you stand for; but you recognize that your power is eclipsed, and, for the good of the country and its Constitutional proceses, you accept your defeat.

The functioning of our country depends upon consensus as to its institutions and underlying processes; and that there are boundaries that you do not cross, because to do so would harm the foundations of the institutions.  See, e.g., the filibuster.

Starting with Newt Gingrich in 1994, the Republicans began crossing those boundaries, and, as a result, the fabric of consensus about the procedural processes of our institutions has started to fray.  Remember when members of Congress were encouraged to socialize across parties, and to be social acquaintances of people across the aisle? Starting with Gingrich, that was abolished, which has eliminated one of the most important ingredients to the functioning of Congress: the assumption of goodwill, and the ability to compromise.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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