Here’s a jolting thought for voters: If you voted for a traditional, moderate Republican in the 2012 election, you gave Republicans a majority in the House and now find yourself governed by an anti-government zealot minority.
When tea party Republicans shut down the federal government they didn’t increase the freedom of the American public from “government.” They simply changed the kind of government we have. Another way to put it, the vast majority of Americans have lost the freedom to be governed by Democrats and traditional Republicans.
Instead of our government keeping the national parks open, it closed them. Instead of adequately funding public services, government reduced the staff that serves us. Those are actions of a dictatorial government and the public must live with the consequences. As a matter of fact, if freedom means having access to shorter lines or quicker access for public services, Americans have actually lost some of it.
The fundamental fallacy of tea party logic is that it’s ever possible for average citizens to be free from being controlled by our nation’s most powerful and influential leaders. Fact is, all human groups are always governed all the time — cities, states, nations, religions, the American Association of Atheists, and even your local family business. If our powerful elected officials allow corporations to put toxic wastes in the local river, that’s “government,” just as much as when they set minimum standards for the disposal of toxic waste. The magic of America has been that, by and large, we’ve elected influential and powerful individuals to public office who respected the crucial role of government in ensuring the success of our total nation, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and the powerful and the powerless.
In the current government shutdown, we’re being governed by a minority of elected leaders who don’t believe in that kind of government. This small group of anti-government demagogues only pretend to represent mainstream Americans. They actually represent those who will finance them and keep them in power: people like the incredibly wealthy Koch brothers and their North Carolina comrade Art Pope — the real power behind those who are governing our nation today.
Chuck Kelly lives in Burnsville and is author of “Farewell Fantasyland; time for political and economic reality.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org