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The party of Lincoln

W. Ray Kwame Williams | 9/26/2013, 2:59 p.m.

The previous shutdown in 1995-96 occurred when President Bill Clinton and GOP congressional leaders could not agree on the terms of a spending bill. At least during that shutdown, the GOP could argue that it had a mandate to challenge a lame duck president because of sweeping victories in midterm elections. In this instance, no such mandate exists. Obama is not a lame duck president; he was elected by a popular vote majority and received 126 more electoral votes than his opponent, Mitt Romney.

The shutdown lasted 21 days and all but the most essential government services were suspended and 800,000 federal workers were sent home. If another shutdown occurs, among other things, most federal workers would be put on unpaid furloughs and soldiers would not be paid again. Yet the most serious consequence could be the inability to meet the debt obligations maturing in mid-October. A debt default could potentially disrupt global markets and re-stall the economy.

In the wake of the recent House posture, one comes to appreciate the U.S. Constitution authors’ bicameral legislative design. Despite the declarations in the founding documents proclaiming a “government of, for and by the people,” the framers distrusted the people. They felt the need to employ a safety valve to check the will of the people and “to restrain if possible the fury of democracy.” Or as stated by James Madison, “The use of the Senate is to consist in proceeding with coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom than the popular branch.”

It is anticipated that the Senate will indeed proceed with coolness and considerably more wisdom than the House and not attempt to repeal Obamacare. Ranking Republican senators have variously characterized the House position as the “dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of” (Sen. Richard Burr) and “absurd” (Sen. John McCain).

Generally, however, it seems that the GOP has not heeded Gov. Bobby Jindal’s admonition to stop being the “stupid party.” Instead, it appears bent on taking stupid to such levels that Paul Krugman, the famed Princeton economist and New York Times columnist, has labeled it the “crazy party.”

Abe would hardly recognize his Grand Old Party.