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Charles Vignola: The GOP’S politics of extortion

Posted: October 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.

If you have a 401K or any money in the stock market, you can thank the Republican Party for a big chunk of it disappearing in the days to come: barring a last-minute miracle, today will be the first day of the government shutdown caused by the GOP’s latest example of politics by extortion.

Now, any conservatives out there who think I’m using hyperbole to make a point can drop the fake outrage. If you don’t think what the Republicans are doing by exploiting the Continuing Resolution vote to force the defunding or delay of Obamacare, then you literally don’t know the meaning of the word “extortion.”

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines extortion as “obtaining from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power.”

Sorry, but holding the entire U.S. government hostage to strong-arm political concessions is basically the textbook definition of this term.

As usual, the Republicans are attempting to turn this around and frame the Democrats as being stubborn and unreasonable. New GOP standard-bearers like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul insist that it’s President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who are forcingthe U.S. government to shut down by refusing to compromise with them.

Let’s be clear about the nature of this “compromise.” A compromise is when two parties with equally reasonable positions jockey for advantage.

When a kidnapper demands a ransom for the safe return of your baby, and you reject the demand, the kidnapper countering with a lower ransom for your child’s return is no rational person’s idea of a compromise.

As President Obama said in his press conference last week, keeping the U.S. government operating is not a concession to him or the Democrats. In fact, it’s only the Republicans who are making demands in this scenario.

If “both sides were doing it” — a favorite canard of the beltway media to make it seem like both sides are equally responsible for any crisis — the Democrats would be making their own partisan demands in exchange for passing the Continuing Resolution.

Imagine if liberal congressmen insisted that they’d only vote for the CR if assault weapons were banned and universal background checks were enacted, cap and trade was passed, capital gains and estate taxes were increased and the minimum wage was raised to $10 an hour — and if they didn’t get what they wanted, they’d shut down the government.

Now, does anyone believe for a second that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh would applaud the Democrats for standing up for their beliefs?

Or would they be howling that liberals were guilty of treason for threatening to grind Washington to a halt?
But unlike the Republicans, Democrats are not holding the government hostage over a laundry list of demands.The Affordable Care Act itself wasn’t extracted at gunpoint, but achieved through normal legislative channels.

House Republicans have voted more than 40 times trying to destroy Obamacare, and they worked tirelessly to make Obamacare a major issue in the 2012 election — yet voters overwhelmingly re-elected President Obama and rejected Romney, who insisted we needed to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.

Republicans insist that the American people hate Obamacare and cherry-pick the polls that seem to back this up. It’s worth noting that in a recent CNBC poll, more Americans opposed Obamacare than opposed the Affordable Care Act — evidently unaware that these are two names for the same law.

It’s clear that people who fear Obamacare are reacting to the demonized, cartoon version of the law that Republicans have worked so hard to manufacture, rather than having an educated opinion based on any actual working knowledge of the law itself.

Republicans insist Obamacare will be a disaster — and we should believe them why? Because they’ve been so accurate with all of their other big predictions?

Let’s recall some golden oldies: the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will create a flood of new jobs. Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The war will be quick and cheap, and we’ll be greeted as liberators.

Quantitative easing will create hyper-inflation. All of the mainstream polls are skewed and Romney will win the election. Raising taxes on the wealthy will kill jobs.

You want to know the best evidence that Obamacare won’t be a disaster? Because it’s basically Romneycare — and Romneycare hasn’t destroyed the Massachusetts economy, cost the state jobs, or inspired Massachusetts citizens to repeal the law.

If any of that had happened, you’d be hearing about it every five minutes on Fox News as proof of Obamacare’s inevitable failure.

Here’s the truth: Obamacare is the law of the land now, and no Republican threats will get the president to compromise the hard-fought victory of his signature legislation.

Republicans may honestly believe they’re taking a principled stand here, but the reality is their predictions of dire consequences if Obamacare is implemented will give way to actual dire consequences if they shut down the government. And if they think they won’t pay a political price, that’s another prediction they’ll get wrong.

Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.


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