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Democrats: Stop Being Wimpy in Implementing the Governmental Shut Down

Spiritual progressives are not wimps. While we bend over backwards to avoid violence and to affirm the humanity in everyone, including those who are doing evil deeds, we do not back away from opportunities to powerfully challenge those deeds. Unfortunately, President Obama and the Congressional Dems don’t seem to have that kind of chutzpah.

Instead, they appear to be wimps, and that doesn’t encourage much trust. So even though temporarily they are slightly winning the battle about who is to blame for the government shut down, they keep missing opportunities to challenge the Tea Party and their supporters.

If they had a backbone, they would have insisted that if the government is going to be shut down, then all of the government will be shut. Instead, they’ve taken the standpoint of the Republicans in dividing “essential services” from “non-essential,” and saying only non-essential services are to be shut down. So when it comes to taking care of the poor and the powerless, those services get shut.

What they should have been saying, and could still say, is this: the government finances and the ability to pay the national debt impact everything, and if the Republicans want to shut down the government, then everything will be shut. So, no pay for anyone who receives government pay, including the Congress (which right now continues to get paid), the entire military (after all, we are not in a war, and if we are still fighting in Afghanistan, we shouldn’t be), the entire homeland security, NSA, FBI, etc. including the people searching us when we get on airplanes (and if the airports have to shut down, that’s another consequence of the Republican’s move), the border guards and the entire Immigration and Naturalization service.

Who could expect the Dems to act in a strong way now, when they’ve been acting like wimps for the past forty years, embracing so many of the assumptions of the Right rather than courageously fighting for the interests of the 99%.

Moreover, when shutting down other Federal services, the priority should be given to shutting down those in the districts where the Congressional reps voted to shut down the government. The President should call upon the people in those districts to create recall elections for their Congressional reps, and insist that those districts that voted to keep government running should be buffered as much as possible from the effects of Tea Party extremism. Let the people in those districts fully understand the consequences of what their representatives voted for.

But who could expect the Dems to act in a strong way now, when they’ve been acting like wimps for the past forty years, embracing so many of the assumptions of the Right rather than courageously fighting for the interests of the 99%. It was, after all, the Obama Administration which expelled more undocumented workers than previous administrations, refused to punish Wall St. bankers and investment brokers for their irresponsibility in causing the Great Recession that still goes on and caused so much suffering for the middle class, refused to punish those involved in torturing prisoners caught in the “war against terror,” innovated drone warfare, allowed the NSA to spy on American citizens, and largely ignored the accelerated destruction of the environment.

Nothing was more illustrative of this wimpiness than Obamacare. Instead of embracing a simple and easily understood way to solve the health care crisis—Medicare for Everyone with payment coming from our taxes and savings from price controls on hospitals, physicians, and pharmaceuticals—Obama care delivered a system that is hard for most people to understand, and that has a critical defect: requiring people to buy health insurance without simultaneously enforcing rigid price controls on the private health insurers. Despite the wonderful aspects of Obamacare (getting health insurance for tens of millions previously uninsured, though NOT for everyone who needs it, and forcing insurers to include those with pre-existing health conditions), this fault will eventually cause Obamacare to be seen as proof that government intervention doesn’t work (whereas it actually only proves that half-hearted interventions in the economy don’t work, just as Obama’s economic policies have shown).

So it’s time for spiritual progressives to build a force capable of challenging the Dems to move in a more principled way toward a world of genuine caring and love and generosity, a kind of love-wing alternative to the Tea Party.

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Michael Lerner

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine: a bimonthly Jewish and Interfaith Journal of Politics, Culture and Society. He is chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, author of 11 books including Healing Israel/Palestine: A Path to Peace and Reconciliation, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco.

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