We’ve seen this all before. And it’s hard to believe that, more than 50 years later, we’re seeing it again.
We saw it in Virginia in 1958 when segregationist lawmakers opted to shut down the entire public school system of Prince Edward County, Va., rather than allow black students to attend school with white students.
Those schools remained closed until 1964.
We saw it again in 2011, when anti-tax Tea Party congressmen, driven by an obsession with undermining the nation’s first black president and a woeful ignorance of macroeconomics, drove the country to the brink of default by refusing to allow him to raise the debt ceiling.
No matter that their hero, Ronald Reagan, raised the ceiling 18 times and George W. Bush raised it seven times.
While an agreement was finally reached, the political dysfunction on display led Standard and Poor’s – one of the top three credit rating organizations – to downgrade the United States’ credit rating from AAA to AA+.
For the first time ever.
Now, those same anti-tax zealots are about to take the country over the edge again – the edge this time being the fiscal cliff.
And apparently, they don’t care about that – as long as President Obama goes over the edge with it.
Some patriots they are.
According to the Associated Press, a number of Tea Party activists are cheering House Speaker John Boehner’s failure to persuade his fellow House members to agree to a compromise on averting the fiscal cliff – a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect on Jan. 1.
Among other things, the cliff will lead to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit and increases in payroll and income taxes. Defense spending would be cut as well –and many economists have warned that going over the cliff could lead to another recession, and possibly another credit downgrade.
But apparently the Tea Party folks, who won’t agree to any compromise that raises taxes on the rich in spite of the fact that without an agreement, virtually everyone will be hit with steep cuts and tax increases, don’t see that.
They don’t see the American people suffering as much as they see them as collateral damage in their war to take out Obama.
Said South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly: “If it takes us going off a cliff to convince people of the mess we’re in, then so be it.
“We have a president who is a whiner. He has done nothing but blame President Bush. It’s time to make President Obama own this economy.”
Christine Morabito, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party, told AP that “sometimes, things have to get worse before they get better,” and that Republicans need to unite against Obama.
“It looked like from the very beginning they [the GOP] were just going to cave in to what President Obama wanted,” said Morabito. “I didn’t want that to happen. Now I’m hopeful that they’re standing up for taxpaying Americans.”
Both Connelly and Morabito are clueless.
The way to stand up for taxpaying Americans, in fact, all Americans, is to insure that they don’t have to endure more taxes because of political intransigence.
Yet the comments by these tea partiers and others reveal what their real mission is. Their mission is to punish the entire country for re-electing Obama; to make people pay for the sin of rejecting their politics of racial resentment and putting the black man back in the White House.
There are lessons here, of course.
One is an old one for the Republicans who welcomed the Tea Party-backed lawmakers into the fold but are now worried that their extremism may lead to the party’s further weakening: Be careful of what you ask for, because you just might get it.
The other is for voters who sat out the 2010 midterm elections that ushered in this wave of Tea Party Republicans who may now send the country crashing over the fiscal cliff: When you don’t vote, extremists get elected.
Extremists who, like the racist Virginia lawmakers more than 50 years ago, want to preserve their sense of privilege and supremacy at the expense of progress for everyone else.
Whether that progress is for a school system or, for that matter, an entire country.