The contours of this debt ceiling battle, at least the congressional portion of it, now appear to be developing around two kinds of lawmakers: the professionals and the amateurs. The former, the so-called “adults in the room,” are aware that the structure of a viable democracy is rooted in the bedrock of compromise. The latter are those who were sent to Washington by an angry electorate with a simplistic mandate to fix things once and for all, then leave.
Fix-it-and-leave sounds like a noble undertaking, and comports with the Founding Fathers’ idea of the clear-eyed, pragmatic citizen-legislator who laid down his plow, his adze or whatever, and journeyed to the national capital to serve his country for a short period before returning to his vocation.
That was back when the fundamental unit of government was the state. The federal operation was so insignificant that had it defaulted, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference to the average citizen, nor would other countries have even paused in their endless cycle of European land grabs to take notice.
Interconnectedness and interdependency makes everything different now. While an 18th Century agrarian view of government still holds romantic appeal in the hinterlands, it helps no one in 2011, especially those who depend on government largess for their very survival, when a large bloc of our lawmakers finds itself unwilling to deviate from an unrealistic, wrong-headed stand (raising the debt ceiling is merely acknowledging the money we’ve already spent, after all), when a little flexibility would lead to betterment⎯or, at least, deliverance⎯for all.
One tea party-backed freshman, who had no previous experience whatsoever in government, admitted in an interview that the conflicting forces around him left him clueless as to what he should do, except to fall on his knees and ask for divine guidance.
The rest of us can only hope that He’s listening.