We are now at a point where we are being pulled by the ear by a Tea Party faction who no longer cares about the very basic function of democracy,
Due to the shutdown brought about by the refusal of the Tea Party to engage in actual governance – and the Republicans who have gone along with it – private charities have had to pick up where the federal government has eschewed its collective obligation to our poor, our children, and to those families who make the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has pledged ten million dollars to hold several Head Start programs over until Congress can come to an agreement. Another charity, Fisher House Foundation, has promised to pay survivor benefits to families who have lost loved ones abroad defending their country until we get our act together.
Even if the House approves piecemeal solutions, if this shutdown continues, hundreds of thousands of American families who have fallen on hard times throughout the recession may have delays in the delivery of nutritional support through food stamps, which have already been reduced. This will be beyond the capacity of temporary fixes by charity.
Apart from the real-world effects of this shutdown, most disheartening is what the current GOP has done to our basic understanding of what it means to be conservative.
Rather than looking at society as a cohesive unit with basic civic responsibilities for each other, conservatism has descended into a self-interested libertarian fantasy land that never existed but for a time in which life expectancy was 35 – 40 years.
Today, by the way, it is eighty years.
Long-time conservative columnist, George Will equated the Affordable Care Act to the Fugitive Slave Act and to the Jim Crow South. One wonders what sense of entitlement one has, in order to feel like a slave simply because the government has set forth regulations of an insurance market that curbs practices that other modern societies have addressed for decades – such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
There has been a stream of libertarian bravado that demonstrates a lack of basic human empathy not only for our fellow Americans, but a language that poisons the well of discussions about how to move forward as a society.
Representative Brenda Barton of Arizona publicly compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler for shutting down the national parks. Governor Brewer offered to reopen the parks using state funds, but was denied. Perhaps because she needed to be reminded to focus on other priorities, like her initial decision to halt Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from reaching the poorest members of the State she represents; the only state in the union to do so.
A recent book by Dr. Chris Parker and Dr. Matt Barreto finds that beyond the conservative values is a sense of anxiety, conspiratorial fantasy, and delusion about the state of the country.
The fundamental flaw of conservatism in our past has been the refusal to view the poor and minorities as full members of society, entitled to the same basic obligations expected from government to assist with, such as Medicare and Social Security.
The President has simply expanded our notion of citizenship and membership, if ever so slightly.
True, by doing so, the President has encroached on the sense of individuality and empowerment that others have felt since the beginning of our founding.
Still, this Tea Party sense of paranoia cannot be allowed to decay our nation.
We should do what we can to prevent this hostile takeover from happening.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.