Shutdown Shows Partisanship Trumps Nation’s Well-Being

Sean Para, Columnist

The recent shutdown of the federal government serves as yet another stark reminder of the systemic failures of our political system. It did not need to happen; it did not have to happen; it should not have happened. A conservative wing of the Republican party has brought the entire federal government to a halt in order to attempt to destroy healthcare laws yet again. These laws have been passed by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court and, by virtue of President Obama’s reelection, supported by the American people. Despite all this, rightwing opposition to the laws continues. Now, they are trying to defund the health-care laws as a quid pro quo for funding the government. This shows blatant disregard for our constitutional system and the interests and wishes of the American people. However, at a more basic level, the acceptance of this utter failure by so many Americans highlights another major fault in our political system — large scale disaffection and apathy toward the government.

The problem of apathy toward the American government showed itself to me recently in a very personal way. Two hours before the shutdown, I was hanging out with a few friends and I mentioned the imminent halt of national government.

No one knew what I was talking about. This is an issue that has been dominating the news for weeks and I was the only person in the room fully aware of it. Politicians in Washington are able to get away with blatantly failing to do their jobs or work for the public interest because their constituents remain indifferent to their actions. The public function of the American government has been subsumed by partisan politics, and the American people have let it happen. There have been no mass protests, no grassroots movements to force members of Congress to come to a deal. Instead, complacency has let politicians stop the government for ideological reasons.

Whether people care or not, the federal shutdown will affect the lives of many Americans. All non-essential government workers will exist in a purgatory — not being paid, yet still technically employed. Equally serious is that the multitudinous federal agencies that provide so many services to the American people will cease to function. Hopefully this crisis will be resolved soon, but until it is, much of the public sector will simply stop functioning. Americans should not put up with this. This shutdown did not have to occur. There is no shortage of money and no impending crisis or recent disaster, but simply a refusal from Congress to pass a new budget. The government is failing in its basic function of working toward the best interests of the American people, and we are letting it.

This shutdown is not only a catastrophe, but also an opportunity. Perhaps this will be the turning point where the American populace stops letting the government fail to perform its duties. In order to pass a budget divorced from any destruction of the healthcare reform, the Republican party will have to be broken. Only time will tell whether or not it can remain united in the face of continued opposition. The best solution to the current crisis would be a rejection of the conservative Republicans by the rest of the party and the passage of a bipartisan budget funding the government and upholding healthcare. This would be a major step toward ending partisan politics. In order to affect serious change, however, the American people need to stop letting politicians put partisanship over the nation’s well-being.