Skip to main content

Republicans, stop living in fear

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
October 15, 2013 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
The Statue of Liberty looms over visitors below on Liberty Island in New York Harbor on Sunday, October 13. The statue was closed to the public by the federal government's partial shutdown that began October 1, but reopened Sunday after the state of New York agreed to shoulder the costs of running the site during the shutdown. Many government services and agencies remain completely or partially closed. The Statue of Liberty looms over visitors below on Liberty Island in New York Harbor on Sunday, October 13. The statue was closed to the public by the federal government's partial shutdown that began October 1, but reopened Sunday after the state of New York agreed to shoulder the costs of running the site during the shutdown. Many government services and agencies remain completely or partially closed.
HIDE CAPTION
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
Government shutdown: Sorry, we're closed
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Congress and the President are trying to reach a deal to end the shutdown
  • Donna Brazile: There are many lessons and cautionary tales to be learned here
  • She says the politics of brinksmanship and extortion should be rejected by GOP
  • Brazile: Republican Party base lives in fear and resorts to extreme tactics

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- As Senate negotiators, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell huddle for another day to avoid the nation's default this week, we'll know in a few days if Congress -- more accurately, House Republicans -- will choose to plunge this nation into a second recession, possibly triggering a global financial meltdown, or agree to compromise.

In a marble hallway of the Capitol, the Ohio clock that has kept time outside the Senate chamber for nearly 200 years, stopped ticking. It's not just symbolic, but a result of the John Boehner-led government shutdown. The Senate curators who wind the clock have been furloughed.

There are many lessons and cautionary tales to be learned from where we are. I want to focus on three.

First, "since the modern congressional budgeting process took effect in 1976, there have been 17 government shutdowns." (Almost half -- eight -- occurred while Ronald Reagan was President.) Some of them only lasted a few days. But the nature of shutdowns has changed: they've gone from squabbles to policy. Constitutional brinksmanship has become a political tactic of the Republican Party.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

The shutdowns of '95 and '96 were a prologue to the shutdowns of 2011 and 2013. In the '90s, Newt Gingrich (then the speaker of the House) got a lot of what he wanted, but his methods disgusted much of the country, and the Republicans took a hit in the polls. In 2011, Boehner boasted he got 98% of what he wanted, but the country firmly rejected the tactics of brinksmanship and bullying in the 2012 presidential election.

Obama, who had approached the budget negotiations believing that Republicans still thought "compromise" is an honorable word and a reasonable solution, learned otherwise. This time, he's not negotiating with what are essentially extortionists.

Second, Abraham Lincoln's adage still holds true: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

Experts are calling the Republican drop in the polls "jaw dropping" and "significant and consequential." One Republican pollster said of the Republican Party's 20-point poll gap: "This type of data creates ripples that will take a long time to resolve, and there will be unexpected changes we cannot predict at the moment."

It's not just the American public who see through the shill and extortion.

Rep. Devin Nunes of California calls some GOP colleagues "lemmings with suicide vests," but he still votes with them. Several Republicans in Congress and six Republican governors have gone on record as opposing the shutdown.

Even the conservative pundits are appalled.

'Tremendous progress' in Senate
Furloughed workers turn to food pantries
Obama: Shutdown 'completely unnecessary'

Charles Krauthammer called "defunding Obamacare misguided, going so far as to call them [House Republicans] the "suicide caucus."

Bill O'Reilly warned against anti-Obamacare "hysteria" and told Republicans not to shut down the government, or "Washington would become Detroit, a place completely out of control."

And Sean Hannity, of all people, has abandoned Boehner, telling his radio audience Friday that Boehner and the rest of the leadership team need to be replaced.

Third, this shutdown and looming default are part of a fight that goes beyond budgets and finances. The fight has two parts: How do we govern ourselves? And who are we?

Republicans lost the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. They regained control of the House in 2010, but might well lose it in 2014. (In fact, had congressional districts not been monstrously gerrymandered, they probably would have lost control in 2012.)

Our Constitution provides pathways for minorities to express their opinions and have a voice in the political process. The old-fashioned way to change policy and change laws involves winning elections (fairly) and using genuine compromise for the greater good.

But Republicans in the House have chosen not to go that route, for two reasons.

First, because of cui bono -- who benefits. The policy of shutdown, the politics of brinksmanship and extortion, benefits those who would profit from turning America into a de facto corporatist oligarchy. (Of course, a monster, once created, isn't always easy to control.)

The second part of the fight is over demographics. America is changing. We are growing into our destiny of "equality for all," becoming a diverse nation where neither race nor religion nor politics can stop a person from self-improvement.

As our nation changes from predominantly West European to a mixture that includes larger percentages of Asians, Africans and Hispanics, the demographic -- and cultural -- dynamics inevitably change as well.

Some people -- about two-thirds of the Republican Party's base -- can't handle that. They live in fear -- an amorphous fear of labels (words such as "socialist" have voodoo-like power) and of "others." It's a fear preyed on and exaggerated. And all their fears have been transferred, scapegoat-like, onto Obamacare and the Democrats.

What Lincoln wrote to a Republican in Congress who feared a financial crisis if they didn't compromise on slavery applies to the House Republicans' attempted political extortion: "Let there be no compromise on the question. ... If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again. ...Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has to come, and better now, than any time hereafter."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
April 13, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
April 12, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT