Thursday, January 31, 2019

SHUTDOWN

Long lines at airports. A threat of airplanes falling out of the sky. National parks and monuments shuttered with overflowing garbage and filthy toilets. Federal employees driving taxis to make ends meet. Go Fund Me pages set up to raise funds for coast guard families. People lining up at soup kitchens. These were just a few effects of a partial government shutdown that crippled America as the president threw a tantrum and stopped paying almost a million government employees. All to force congress to support a dubious campaign promise he made. 
As the Democrats, Republicans and the President got down to the muddy business of working out a deal to open the government, the rabid bipartisanship was stark and unabashed. The Democrats insisted that they would only negotiate on the condition of the government being open. The Republican senators would not accept any bill unless they had a guarantee that the president would sign it. And the president would not budge unless he was handed a $5.7 billion check to build his grotesque monument to discrimination and bigotry.
After thirty eight days of brinkmanship and shameful display of incivility, the president relented. It was not the pain and anguish of the people that were suffering that made him change his mind. Being denied the opportunity to address the nation from the pulpit of the house, seemed to have irked the bully president to reconsider his position.
He decided to open the government for three weeks
As the world looked to America and saw the gridlock and the dysfunction, they were appalled at how a developed nation could operate in such a manner. As the United Kingdom was in chaos trying to workout a Brexit deal, America’s dysfunction was quickly compared and a parallel was drawn as both nations dealt with uncertainty, artificially created by a political circus. Probably authoritarian regimes like Russia and China were having a laugh at the theatrics being displayed openly in the media. 
But there is a silver lining to it all. The American system of government, even though being less democratic in its choice, is equipped with checks and balances that were masterfully devised to keep power constrained. At its core, the idea is to draw and push opposing sides to find middle ground and compromise for the betterment of the people and the nation. Even though the assumption is that reasonable patriotic people would rise to the office and put the interest of the nation before politics, the drafters of the system foresaw in their wisdom, that probably there would be times of exception. So they separated power between the legislative, executive and judicial branches to keep an autocratic leader under check.
The mid-term elections resoundingly put the Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives, effectively putting the brakes on the president’s agenda of trash and burn. The Democratic speaker of the house became the second most powerful person as a result and showed decisively to the president that he could not railroad his agenda.
The American system of government is in no means perfect. It is a work a progress and was always meant to be so, to help the nation adapt to changing times. It is this very nature that allowed the emancipation proclamation, civil rights, social security, women’s rights and other countless reforms to be enacted and rolled out through the land. It is the same system that has sent countless Americans to their death in wars and invasions across the globe and allowed the nation to be infested with guns. It is also the same system that elected Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama and Donald Trump to the highest office of the land.
It is what it is.
 
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