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 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
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
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT