When the federal government officially shut down just after midnight on Tuesday morning, Oct. 1, I was still awake, tossing and turning and worrying about all the things middle-class people with children to feed, clothe and educate and elderly parents to care for worry about.
As a middle-aged white guy who’s made his living in the newspaper business for more than two decades, I’m hardly a stranger to bouts of anxiety in the middle of the night. Even if I worked in a more financially healthy sector of the economy, I can’t imagine being sanguine about what has happened to the American middle class over the half century I’ve been on earth. And the sad fact is, I’ve spent at least half that time believing that, no matter how partisan their behavior most of the time, our elected representatives in Washington would soon turn things around, if only for the sake of their own political survival.
As I tried in vain to drift off to sleep in the wee hours of Oct. 1, I came to the realization that today’s crop of politicians will never turn things around. The latest government shutdown exposes both political parties for what they are: ruthless gangs whose members are self-interested, arrogant, pathologically ambitious and utterly indifferent to the plight of the people they were elected to serve. To shut down the government at so precarious a time in our national economic recovery is beyond reckless; it exposes a political class that cares more for partisan gamesmanship than national service, that treats life and death issues like a parlor game.
As my mind raced that sleepless night, I wondered how I might have reacted to such a government shutdown in my 20s. I suspect that back then I’d have been inclined to side with the Democrats, to buy into the partisan spin that Republicans are holding the country hostage to their unreasonable demands, that only Democrats can be counted on to do what’s right for the working class. But I lost faith in Democrats back when Bill Clinton was in office. Barack Obama has done nothing to restore my faith. Whether it’s Democrats like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi or Republicans like John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, I distrust them all, revile them all.
The failure of Congress to come to an agreement to fully fund normal operations last week should be a wakeup call to working Americans everywhere: it is time to break apart the two political parties that have long dominated American politics and send all their members packing. While a few good souls may be lost in such a purge, we have no other choice if we want our democracy back. If the politicians in Washington can’t be bipartisan, we can. Let’s throw them all out.•