By Stephen C. Webster on October 17, 2013

Mere hours after the great government shutdown of 2013 finally ended, President Barack Obama condemned the Republican Party for manufacturing an economic crisis.

“Nothing has done more to undermine our economy these past three years than the kind of tactics that create this kind of crisis,” he said. “[The crisis has] encouraged our enemies, emboldened our competitors and depressed our friends. ... We’ve got a lot of hard work to do regaining their trust. The system of self-government doesn’t function without it.”

Indeed it doesn’t. But our system of government is also dependent upon another very important principle: majority rule. And what Americans witnessed on Wednesday night was nothing short of President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid placing a stent in that vital artery of democracy, preserving it (hopefully) for generations to come.

By refusing to negotiate with the hostage-takers in the Republican Party -- a tactic insiders credit more to Reid than Obama -- the Senate and the Executive branch reasserted authority over the House, and particularly over the insurgent tea party Republicans who seemed hell-bent on inflicting an economic crisis on the whole world.

Their prize? A whopping $24 billion in taxpayer dollars down the drain, and zero real political concessions from the President and his party. As Reid told Democrats last week, “The President of the United States was very, very strong, strong, strong.”

The Republicans no longer have the power to bring the government to its knees, and the tea party is now aware of this. It seems that the Republican Party’s “fever” has finally begun to break.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demonstrated this on Wednesday night, controlling more votes in the chamber than her Republican counterpart -- an ominous sign of things to come in 2014. Speaker John Boehner only managed to whip up 87 votes to reopen the government, despite telling his members they have “no reason” to vote against it. By comparison, Pelosi’s Democrats voted in complete unison, leaving 144 embittered, neo-Confederate Republicans to toss their ballots into the winds of history.

Of course, the deal struck Wednesday merely kicks the budget fight down the road even further -- with funding at sequester-levels, no less -- which means this could conceivably all happen again in February when the U.S. hits the debt ceiling once again.

To his vanquished foes, the President had a simple message on Thursday morning: “Go win an election,” he said. “... Let’s work together to make government work better instead of treating it like an enemy, or purposefully making it work worse. That’s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they fashioned self government.”

“Push to change it,” Obama added. “Don’t break it.”


This video is from CBS News, broadcast Thursday, October 17, 2013.


Illustration: Flickr user DonkeyHotey, creative commons licensed.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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