Once upon a time, there was a football team that only played defense, and another football team that only played offense. One of them wore blue jerseys, and the other one wore red jerseys. Guess which one won all the games?
Folks, look: Just being on the field doesn't mean you're winning. Winning games means enacting your policies into law.
Currently, the red team is winning the games, despite the fact that the blue team controls the Presidency and the Senate -- two out of three of the "fields" where the games are being played.
We have minority rule in this country. It's time to wake up. The Republicans have discovered how to achieve their policy goals without winning most of the elections.
The current Republican government shutdown has only shut down the parts of the government that Democrats believe in: things like support for the poor, education, scientific research, national parks, and other things that directly benefit the American people. Other parts of the government -- the parts that Republicans believe in -- remain funded and open: things like the bloated military and the domestic spying agencies and programs.
So, who's "winning" the shutdown? The red team, that's who. Forget about the polls. I'm talking about policy. Right now, the Republicans are getting exactly what they want from government -- a gigantic, well-funded military and "war on terror" apparatus, and little else -- while Democrats are getting almost nothing that we want from government.
But the government shutdown can't go on forever, right? That's when the Democrats will win -- after the shutdown ends -- right?
Well, let's think about that. Because of their outrageous demands -- their brilliant opening position in the inevitable negotiations -- the final outcome is likely to be a conservative-leaning budget. President Obama and the Democrats could be matching the boldness of the Republicans by making staunch ideological demands of their own: things like new jobs programs, major infrastructure spending programs, increases to spending on science and education, expansion of Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid to cover more people, and so on and so forth. Instead, they are only playing defense.
I'm sorry to say, but in policy battles, just like in football games, it's hard to score -- and nearly impossible to win the game -- unless you get your defense off the field and play some good offense. The Democrats aren't even trying to play offense. It's all D, all the time.
Oh, but you CAN score on defense -- with an interception. The Democrats' strategy seems to be to count on the Republicans having such a reckless, inept offense that the defensive team can win just by taking advantage of the Republicans' mistakes. Theoretically, yes. In reality, it's not working that way. The field is slanted against the Democrats through gerrymandering. Even if Republicans are very unpopular, they can still barely hang on to the House in 2014. To continue with the football analogy, it's like they get to start their drives at the 40 yard line and we have to start at the 10.
Besides, if the final result of the Republican hostage-taking with the government shutdown and the debt ceiling is a budget that slashes the government -- in return for the Republicans "graciously compromising" by allowing the whole government to open for business and for the executive branch to pay all the government's debts -- then forget about getting the Democratic base to come out to the polls in 2014. Why should Democrats bother to vote for politicians who can only keep moving to the right, just a little less fast, a little less extreme in the austerity, than the Republicans?
We have a big problem on our hands. The Republicans know that all they have to do to keep the austerity train moving is to keep throwing sand in the gears of our democracy -- because whatever "compromise" that comes out of the eventual negotiations will be a compromise between a closed-down government and a threat of default, on the one hand, and a moderate austerity budget (as proposed by President Obama and the Senate) on the other hand. So Republicans win the policy game... as usual.
Things will continue to go this way until Democrats decide to play offense and make truly liberal opening bids in negotiations. Asking Republicans to kindly reopen the rest of the government in addition to the always-open, always grotesquely over-funded military, and to kindly stop threatening economic catastrophe through a first-ever default on the nation's debts, in exchange for agreeing to a "compromise" budget that will end up looking much like Paul Ryan's and the Koch brothers' fantasies, is just another example of conservative rule in America.
Sorry, but it smells like defeat for the left -- and it stinks.