Weekly Briefing

Don’t forget this moment

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Far right runs nation, state into ditch, but will Americans and North Carolinians remember?

How far off the rails into Crazy Land have Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and the Tea Party taken the American government in recent weeks and months? Pretty damn far. Check out the following commentaries from the Rev. Pat Robertson – yes, that Pat Robertson and the editors of the notoriously right-wing Wall Street Journal:

This is from the website Right Wing Watch:

In remarks made today [October 15] on the 700 Club, Robertson said that if the GOP continues its crusade to derail Obamacare, it would lead to a default that ‘would be devastating economically to every human being.’

The Republicans have got to wave the white flag and say, “We fought a good fight and now it’s over.” They cannot shut the government down and then bring about a default. We can’t do it. I mean, it would be devastating economically to every human being and the Republicans just can’t get tarred with that. So they tried and if they go to the electorate and say, “We tried, Obamacare was awful, we tried to get it underway and we weren’t successful, the Democrats wanted it, they fought for it and they wouldn’t let go so it’s their bill, their program.”’

This is from this morning’s Journal as reported at the website Talking Points Memo:

“’This is the quality of thinking—or lack thereof—that has afflicted many GOP conservatives from the beginning of this budget showdown,’ the editorial read. ’They picked a goal they couldn’t achieve in trying to defund ObamaCare from one House of Congress, and then they picked a means they couldn’t sustain politically by pursuing a long government shutdown and threatening to blow through the debt limit.’

The Journal said that if the Senate passes its compromise to avert default and reopen the government, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will likely have no choice ‘”other than to bring it to the floor and let it pass with votes from either party.’

At least that’s better than getting the blame for whatever happens if Treasury stops sending out Social Security checks in order to prioritize debt repayments,’ the editorial read. ‘The politics of that are little better than defaulting on debt. Republicans can best help their cause now by getting this over with and moving on to fight more intelligently another day.’”

Meanwhile, in North Carolina…

Things in North Carolina are, arguably, even worse. While it’s true that neither Gov. McCrory nor the General Assembly has brought the world economy to the verge of meltdown, for thousands of vulnerable families, they might as well have.

Already this year, McCrory and the legislature have turned down billions in federal unemployment insurance and Medicaid dollars that would have stimulated the state economy and, in thousands of cases, allowed average families to keep paying their rent and light bill. Now, more than 20,000 of these families could soon be trying to survive – literally, survive – without the pitiable sums North Carolina metes out in its already Scroogian “welfare” program, Work First.

Thanks to the Governor, his state budget director, Art Pope and DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, North Carolina is currently the only state in the union to shut down this program in response to the federal budget impasse. To make matters even more outrageous, the state is taking this extreme and unnecessary step at the same moment that it is releasing state funds to help open the federally-funded Great Smoky Mountains National Park. According to the Governor, “This is about jobs and the economy.”

Before jetting off to a confab with oil and coal industry lobbyists at a Mississippi casino yesterday, McCrory tried to cover his tracks on the Work First cutoff by appearing with Pope and Wos at Charlotte press conference to dispense a few bucks to the state’s food banks.

To its credit, however, the Governor’s hometown newspaper (the Charlotte Observer, which endorsed his 2012 candidacy a year ago this week) wasn’t having any of the dog and pony show. After pointing out McCrory’s duplicity in lambasting federal officials for treating federal services and the people who depend upon them like “chess pieces” after having done precisely the same thing for months, the paper said this:

But thousands more North Carolinians were hungry long before the shutdown, and McCrory’s administration and the legislature have adopted a ‘first-in-the-nation’ model that repeatedly has made things worse….

So McCrory’s promise of more and faster support for North Carolina’s food banks was welcome. It was also long overdue. And McCrory is no hero swooping in to protect the hungry from those idiots in Washington. He is the choreographer of a political stunt that was actually damage control for his administration’s own shortcomings.”

So, what happens next?

At the moment of this writing, the signals from Washington are moderately encouraging that a subset of conservative lawmakers will come to their senses in order to help assure that the meltdown will be avoided. Obviously, all sane people hope that this is true.

But, what comes after that? Will Americans simply go on their merry ways as if nothing truly important has really happened? Will they continue to buy into the demonstrably false claims about the Affordable Care Act and the federal deficit?

Let’s fervently hope not. Rather, let’s hope that the vast majority of Americans who reside outside the through-the-looking-glass world of the Tea Party extremists have been awakened by this dangerous near miss and are spurred to determined and sustained action to make sure that the Republic is never again subjected to such a destructive hostage-taking event.

Interestingly, on this count, the nation would do well to check out a case study right here in Wake County, North Carolina. Just a few years ago, voter apathy and a Tea Party uprising led the public schools in the most populous county in this closely divided state to be overrun by ideologues and bullies bent upon radical change. Like the U.S. government itself, the system was dragged dangerously close to a precipitous cliff in the name of a radical, market fundamentalist ideology.

Four years later, those dark days are, thanks to the sustained and impassioned advocacy and organizing of hundreds of normal, average citizens, fast receding in the historical rear view mirror. Faced with losing their award winning school system, average citizens stood up and told the far right ideologues: “Not with our schools, you don’t!”

Obviously, the stakes are much, much bigger and the issues more complex, but at some basic level this is exactly the same response that is needed from the American public in the weeks, months and years ahead. Faced with the grim reality of the extremist plans that the far right harbors, it’s well past time for people to stand up and say “Not with our country, you don’t.”

Let’s get to work.