Skip to main content

Republicans, stop living in fear

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Tue October 15, 2013
The Statue of Liberty looms over visitors below on Liberty Island in New York Harbor on Sunday, October 13. The statue was closed to the public by the federal government's partial shutdown that began October 1, but reopened Sunday after the state of New York agreed to shoulder the costs of running the site during the shutdown. Many government services and agencies remain completely or partially closed. The Statue of Liberty looms over visitors below on Liberty Island in New York Harbor on Sunday, October 13. The statue was closed to the public by the federal government's partial shutdown that began October 1, but reopened Sunday after the state of New York agreed to shoulder the costs of running the site during the shutdown. Many government services and agencies remain completely or partially closed.
HIDE CAPTION
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Congress and the President are trying to reach a deal to end the shutdown
  • Donna Brazile: There are many lessons and cautionary tales to be learned here
  • She says the politics of brinksmanship and extortion should be rejected by GOP
  • Brazile: Republican Party base lives in fear and resorts to extreme tactics

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- As Senate negotiators, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell huddle for another day to avoid the nation's default this week, we'll know in a few days if Congress -- more accurately, House Republicans -- will choose to plunge this nation into a second recession, possibly triggering a global financial meltdown, or agree to compromise.

In a marble hallway of the Capitol, the Ohio clock that has kept time outside the Senate chamber for nearly 200 years, stopped ticking. It's not just symbolic, but a result of the John Boehner-led government shutdown. The Senate curators who wind the clock have been furloughed.

There are many lessons and cautionary tales to be learned from where we are. I want to focus on three.

First, "since the modern congressional budgeting process took effect in 1976, there have been 17 government shutdowns." (Almost half -- eight -- occurred while Ronald Reagan was President.) Some of them only lasted a few days. But the nature of shutdowns has changed: they've gone from squabbles to policy. Constitutional brinksmanship has become a political tactic of the Republican Party.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

The shutdowns of '95 and '96 were a prologue to the shutdowns of 2011 and 2013. In the '90s, Newt Gingrich (then the speaker of the House) got a lot of what he wanted, but his methods disgusted much of the country, and the Republicans took a hit in the polls. In 2011, Boehner boasted he got 98% of what he wanted, but the country firmly rejected the tactics of brinksmanship and bullying in the 2012 presidential election.

Obama, who had approached the budget negotiations believing that Republicans still thought "compromise" is an honorable word and a reasonable solution, learned otherwise. This time, he's not negotiating with what are essentially extortionists.

Second, Abraham Lincoln's adage still holds true: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

Experts are calling the Republican drop in the polls "jaw dropping" and "significant and consequential." One Republican pollster said of the Republican Party's 20-point poll gap: "This type of data creates ripples that will take a long time to resolve, and there will be unexpected changes we cannot predict at the moment."

It's not just the American public who see through the shill and extortion.

Rep. Devin Nunes of California calls some GOP colleagues "lemmings with suicide vests," but he still votes with them. Several Republicans in Congress and six Republican governors have gone on record as opposing the shutdown.

Even the conservative pundits are appalled.

'Tremendous progress' in Senate
Furloughed workers turn to food pantries
Obama: Shutdown 'completely unnecessary'

Charles Krauthammer called "defunding Obamacare misguided, going so far as to call them [House Republicans] the "suicide caucus."

Bill O'Reilly warned against anti-Obamacare "hysteria" and told Republicans not to shut down the government, or "Washington would become Detroit, a place completely out of control."

And Sean Hannity, of all people, has abandoned Boehner, telling his radio audience Friday that Boehner and the rest of the leadership team need to be replaced.

Third, this shutdown and looming default are part of a fight that goes beyond budgets and finances. The fight has two parts: How do we govern ourselves? And who are we?

Republicans lost the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. They regained control of the House in 2010, but might well lose it in 2014. (In fact, had congressional districts not been monstrously gerrymandered, they probably would have lost control in 2012.)

Our Constitution provides pathways for minorities to express their opinions and have a voice in the political process. The old-fashioned way to change policy and change laws involves winning elections (fairly) and using genuine compromise for the greater good.

But Republicans in the House have chosen not to go that route, for two reasons.

First, because of cui bono -- who benefits. The policy of shutdown, the politics of brinksmanship and extortion, benefits those who would profit from turning America into a de facto corporatist oligarchy. (Of course, a monster, once created, isn't always easy to control.)

The second part of the fight is over demographics. America is changing. We are growing into our destiny of "equality for all," becoming a diverse nation where neither race nor religion nor politics can stop a person from self-improvement.

As our nation changes from predominantly West European to a mixture that includes larger percentages of Asians, Africans and Hispanics, the demographic -- and cultural -- dynamics inevitably change as well.

Some people -- about two-thirds of the Republican Party's base -- can't handle that. They live in fear -- an amorphous fear of labels (words such as "socialist" have voodoo-like power) and of "others." It's a fear preyed on and exaggerated. And all their fears have been transferred, scapegoat-like, onto Obamacare and the Democrats.

What Lincoln wrote to a Republican in Congress who feared a financial crisis if they didn't compromise on slavery applies to the House Republicans' attempted political extortion: "Let there be no compromise on the question. ... If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again. ...Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has to come, and better now, than any time hereafter."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
updated 5:03 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
updated 5:25 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
updated 8:12 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT