Putting It Into Perspective

October 6, 2013 11:48 a.m.

TPM Reader FN asks for a deeper perspective on what’s happening …

As a Historian, any chance you could push for an essay signed by Historians —which puts into perspective and explains the roots and causes of the shutdown?

This does seem to be an important (possible turning point) event for the American experiment.

Clearly, what is going on is an attempt to overturn the 2012 election through undemocratic means.

Using the government shutdown and the debt ceiling as leverage to force a minority favored outcome is not how our system is supposed to work.

Democracy is not a process of hostage taking to get a outcome which cannot be achieved at the ballot box.

Such a process, if allowed to succeed will render elections meaningless and change the fundamental nature of our political system.

Historians could best explain how this leverage approach to governance came about and what are the consequences if it succeeds.

Senator Schumer used an interesting metaphor today to illustrate this non election approach to governance: It is like someone coming into your house and taking your wife and children hostage and then stating—now, let’s negotiate the sales price for your house.

My point is that not enough people will read and ponder the Chait article and that the constitutional crisis created by the shutdown and the debt ceiling hostage approach to governance requires a clear explanation why this option is being used and the long term consequences to our Democracy. Further, that this needs to be spelled out in clear language by respected authors—American History scholars.

This has been done by several insightful politicians and pundits: Robert Reich, Gary Hart, E.J. Dionne, Paul Krugman—but the story needs a more comprehensive

A Democracy can only work if the people are informed and understand what is at stake.

As an historian, though not a practicing one, I would only say that I don’t think historians are necessarily the best ones to address the issue, either substantively or politically. In other words, I don’t think many Americans care to hear what tenured history professors have to say and I’m not sure I blame them. But on the broader point, I agree with FN’s point. The real issue, as I see it, is the marquee DC journalists and pundits, who refuse to speak plainly about what’s happening and won’t go beyond the pablum of false equivalence.

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