PARIS – Once upon a time, there was a Republic that knew how to overcome ideological differences. It was largely governed from a certain middle ground, a magical place and the matrix of what political art can produce in its most intelligent and, often, noble form: reform by compromise.
This Republic of yore could find majorities thanks to center-leaning politicians from the country's two main parties, Republicans and Democrats. Momentous policies were thus enacted: the New Deal's welfare state, the fight against 20th century totalitarianism, the Civil Rights Act, the conquest of space …
Across the Atlantic, the Old Continent — too often absorbed in ideological squabble — longed for a flexibility similar to that of the American political system.
Yet, as the years passed, this system was bound to grind to a halt. The workings of the American democracy have been getting rustier and rustier. The latest example of this is the government shutdown as the White House and Republican-led House of Representatives are locked in a standoff over the federal budget.
The new budget year started on Oct. 1 and, without a deal, the Treasury has no money to pay civil servants — meaning that parts of the government's basic services are simply shut down.
It's the politics, stupid
Of course, it is an eminently political affair. The Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have no intention of voting the budget unless they get the cancellation of Barack Obama's health care reform — an eventuality that the president and the Senate, controlled by his party, refuse to even discuss.
But things do not end there. Although this is already harmful to the economy, the shutdown could lead to something much worse: the default on the American debt payment, should the Republicans adopt the same conduct come Oct. 17, when the debt ceiling will need to be raised. The beginning of the U.S. economic recovery could be seriously jeopardized, bound to lead to negative repercussions on the rest of the world's economy.
It would be wrong to assume that there is a genuine disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over Obamacare health reform. It is but a pretext for the extremist, fundamentalist core of the Republican party, the Tea Party, to sabotage Obama's presidency. Such is the reflection of an increasingly polarized American public life.
There is no rational justification for the actions of the Tea Party, except for the hatred they share for this President, or for a view of politics that falls under the frame of permanent civil war.
A majority of the American people strongly oppose the Tea Party, but their representatives in Congress risk nothing. Their constituencies were tailor-made by Republican governors, guaranteeing them reelection. And meanwhile, the Founding Fathers of this great Republic will continue to turn over in their proverbial grave.