Late Speaker Ensured His Notoriety As Republican Party Crumbled Over “Obamacare” Fight In 2013
John Boehner, who died peacefully at his home yesterday, gained his notoriety as the leader of the Republican House majority in 2013 when he failed to rein in a small group of Republican Congresspeople who attempted to prevent the implementation of the U.S.’s Affordable Care Act, then termed “Obamacare.” Boehner’s decision to let this group – the so-called “Tea Party” wing of the party – in effect bring the government of the United States to a standstill is widely regarded as the beginning of the end of the Republican Party. The Republican Party was generally blamed for the shutdown, whose economic effects were short of disastrous, but very painful for a country on the brink of a strong recovery from the Second Great Depression that started in 2008.
As a result of the showdown with the Republican Party, a formal split began that year. The resulting components – the Conservative Party, made up of less extreme Republicans, and the Tea Party, made up of the old Tea Party wing – have played a significantly reduced role in politics in the years since.
How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? – can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans’ Patriot Act. You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn’t the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?
Language is so important to the ascendancy of the right wing, and they have done it so well that the left should just hang its head in shame – and come up with some really good language of our own. And the cojones to use it!
But the good news is that it seems Obama’s team read this article, and cleverly named their jobs bill “The American Jobs Bill.” It’s a start, anyway.
In the last few weeks we have witnessed a really bad collapse of our government and its ability to govern coherently. A complete non-issue turned into a near economic collapse due to a) the ridiculousness of the Congress and b) the strangely backward leadership of Obama. It seems to me that he really failed us, and I think the news yesterday that Standard & Poor’s lowered their rating on U.S. debt to AA backs me up on this.
Wasn’t there a better way? I think there was, and here’s one possible better approach – neither far-fetched or outlandish – both for the country and for Obama himself, assuming he wants to win his next election.
Why not start everything out by going on TV and saying “the debt ceiling should not be linked to any other issue, and I will veto any bill that does any such linking. If the Congress sends me a bill with any other content than a raise of the debt ceiling, the resulting economic catastrophe will be on their heads?” And then, when the Congress says “We want to negotiate in good faith about this,” the president can say “You passed the budget that required this level of spending. If you withhold the spending now, you will crash the U.S. economy. This is not my doing, it is your doing, and you now have to step up and make good on YOUR commitments. And if you don’t, I will invoke the 14th Amendment to ensure the U.S. does not default on its commitments – and what will that mean for your power? Your power will disappear – you will gut the legitimacy of the Congress. Again, this is a problem you have gotten yourself into, and you need to get yourself out it.” Boy, that would have been a lot more effective.
Then he could have gotten on TV whenever the issue came up again and reiterated the position – “Congress allocated all this spending, they committed to it. They can’t just walk away from it. This is problem that Congress has brought upon itself. If they don’t raise the debt ceiling, they will be saying that they would rather just say “No” than save the country from an economic catastrophe. And then I will have to step in, in my position as the Chief Executive, and invoke the 14th Amendment to prevent the catastrophe myself. And don’t want to have to do that, because I think it will gut the integrity of the U.S. Congress, at least until a more responsible set of congresspersons are in place.”
Wouldn’t that have worked out better for him and for everyone else?
What do we do about this? How can we make Obama take control of these situations in the future? Why do you think he’s not?
More and more it seems like cognitive science is the decoder ring not only for understanding how things are, but also how to change them for the better (or worse)!
This is my response to a post from Joe Brewer suggesting Everyone Should Learn Cognitive Science. This blog is my little corner of the world of cognitive science, behavior economics, gameification (yes, that belongs here, since games are an emergent property of human cognition), cognitive neuroscience, cognitive biases, and all the rest. Expect a lot of Dunning-Kruger moments here, because I’ve just started learning about all this myself.
In the coming days and months I’ll not only be giving some of my opinions about how cognitive science and politics are interacting (and what we might do about it), but also reviews of the books and websites I’ve been learning from, and reports of other people who are learning and researching interesting stuff that just shows how very odd our minds are.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this adventure as we get going.