The idea of a federal government shutdown is not at all unpleasant for a significant block of the Republican Party who firmly believe in Ronald Reagan’s famous saying, “Government is the problem.”
That is why the House of Representatives thought it would be worth risking a federal government shutdown in exchange for eliminating Obamacare. Then, when the Senate and the White House failed to respond as expected, they started passing laws to finance specific areas of the government.
To a certain extent, this is a conservative dream come true: the power to exclusively finance federal government functions they consider important and defund any others. They couldn’t do that with Obamacare, but they can with certain social programs they don’t like.
That is what is behind the Republican leadership’s obstinate refusal to approve a temporary budget extension unless they can exact concessions from President Obama. Now the issue in question is shifting from Obamacare per se to increased demands as the deadline to raise the debt ceiling approaches.
The history of the United States is marked by anti-government sentiment and antipathy towards Washington that is not devoid of contradictions. As the saying goes, “Get the government out of my life, but don’t touch my Social Security check.” This disconnect has been successfully leveraged by the Tea Party to increase its influence in the House of Representatives.
An example of the Republicans’ anti-government tradition was its strong opposition to the creation of Social Security and Medicare. Today’s incendiary rhetoric over Obamacare is no different from what they professed several years earlier against these successful social programs.
Reagan is the conservative ideal to be emulated. Yet none of his oratory ever led to a government shutdown. In fact, he actually increased taxes several times. It would be good if present-day radicals in the House of Representatives would recognize that there is a difference between speech-making and governing, and that they were elected to go to Washington to administer the federal government, not to destroy it.