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Frank Rich on the History of Government Shutdowns — New York Magazine


Photo-illustration by Gluekit. Clockwise from high left, Calhoun, Goldwater, Cruz, Gingrich.Photo: © Bettmann/Corbis (Goldwater), Terry Ashe/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images (Gingrich); Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images (Cruz)

The nice ­authorities shutdown of 2013 was barely a day previous, and already blue America was working out of comedian put-downs to hurl at the House’s wrecking crew. Not content material with “morons” and “dunderheads,” Jon Stewart coined new epithets for the event (e.g., “bald-eagle fellators”). Politicians you wouldn’t usually confuse with Don Rickles joined in too—not simply the anticipated Democrats like Harry Reid, who had opted for “banana Republicans,” however blue-state Republicans like Devin Nunes of California, who dismissed his personal congressional friends as “lemmings with suicide vests.”

Implicit on this bipartisan gallows humor was an assumption shared by most of these listening: The non-legislating legislators answerable for the disaster are a lunatic fringe—pariahs in the nation at giant and outliers even in their very own social gathering. They’re “a small faction of Republicans who represent an even smaller fraction of Americans,” as the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau put it in the Daily Beast. By this line of reasoning, all that saved them afloat was their possession of simply sufficient votes of their divided chamber to carry the relaxation of America quickly hostage to their incendiary calls for.

Would that this had been so, and that the extralegal rise up in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, a Supreme Court–sanctified legislation of the land, would ship the rebels, not the nation, off a cliff. Off the cliff they could nicely have gone on this 12 months’s failed coup, however like Wile E. Coyote, they are going to rapidly climb again as much as struggle one other day. That’s what occurred after the double-header shutdowns of 1995–96, which presaged Newt Gingrich’s beheading however in the future superior the rebels’ trigger. It’s what at all times occurs. The present-day anti-government radicals in Congress, and the Americans who voted them into workplace, are in the minority, however they’re a everlasting minority that periodically disrupts or commandeers a department or two of the federal authorities, to not point out the nation’s statehouses. Their brethren have been round for a lot of our historical past in a single social gathering or one other, and with a relentless anti-­democratic purpose: to thwart the legitimacy of a duly elected chief they abhor, from Lincoln to FDR to Clinton to Obama, and to withstand any legal guidelines with which they disagree. So deeply rooted are these furies in our nationwide tradition that their consistency and tenacity needs to be the envy of different native political actions.



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