Patrick Skarr, Account Supervisor
I feel as though we’re living in a dream, wherein television has become reality, and reality occupies television. All of the radio waves have somehow meshed the Nov. 19 episode of The West Wing, aptly named, “Shutdown,” into the minds of capitol hill strategists and politicians.
We’ve seen theatrics on both sides of the partisan divide, some of which was really good entertainment, like the faux filibuster. Reinforced by the fourth and fifth estates of traditional and new media, the shutdown has become riveting political play, a source of ratings for the networks, facilitating political donations and building bona fides for those involved with larger political ambitions.
Unfortunately, Republicans and Democrats have now found themselves backed in a corner. Neither a photo opportunity nor a messaging moment will end this political standoff absent a massive unforeseen activity, or one side loosing their nerve, which isn’t likely.
The only means to resolving this disagreement is to have our politicians do what they are best at: negotiating under deadline and finding a way for both sides of the table to say they got something.
Early polling of the issue indicates neither side will emerge unscathed, meaning the longer this drags on and the more intertwined the issue of the debt ceiling becomes, the more both sides will have motivation to deal. And both sides need to reach a longer-term deal where each side has a visible win for their constituency, or we’ll be in an endless cycle and brought back to this very point every fiscal year.
Years ago while strolling the college bookstore I came across Thirteen Days: A memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Robert Kennedy. (Editor’s note: read the book and avoid the terrible movie.) It wasn’t required reading for any of my classes, but I had the habit of buying texts assigned for other classes. I was forever grateful as this recounting of one of humanity’s scariest episodes, where we civilized society danced on the precipice, provides the playbook for how to resolve a full-fledged political crisis.
The basic construct of the missile crisis and the fiscal fights are roughly the same. Both were avoidable and manmade. In both circumstances, elected leaders were being hounded to take more extreme positions by certain elements of their political base (in the case of 1960’s the military leaders for both sides continually advocated ratcheting up the pressure).
We all know how the missile crisis resolved itself. Humanity was saved from itself through the art of compromise, the patience of the leaders involved and unyielding desire to avoid complete and utter destruction. Both sides got a concession and allowed to save face. That is the playbook and recipe for success now.
In Federalist No. 51, James Madison wrote, “ If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
It doesn’t appear anyone in the nation’s capital is on the fast-track to sainthood, and we certainly need plenty of checks on government. But it is clear both politicians and the institution of government are in dire need of the help of divine intervention and support from the angels above.
This episode leads to major institutional and fiscal reforms that provide both parties base with what they need. This standoff needs to facilitate compromise, or we’ll be singing the same tune this time next year.