People and Communities Remain Offstage in Shutdown’s Political Theater

Donkey and Elephant BoxFour days in, the government shutdown has resulted in heavy political posturing and little hope for a solution. In addition, the debt ceiling will soon be reached, adding yet another layer to a bitterly partisan fiscal fight.

Clearly, these are difficult times. The optimist in me hopes that the current impasse will prove to be our leaders’ rock-bottom moment. Perhaps the self-inflicted damage caused by the shutdown, and God forbid, debt default would serve to show the brinksmen on both side of the aisle their error in putting politics in front of policy.

Yet the skeptic in me fears that the current crisis will have no impact, whatsoever, on the polarized political climate. While policymakers appear to be rolling the dice, betting that the party on the opposite side of the political isle will bear the bulk of the blame among voters; the truth is that most members of Congress represent districts that are solidly Republican or Democratic. What that means is that it’s entirely likely that this recent crisis is just business as usual — just another crisis in a long and seemingly endless string of them.

As for the shutdown, a deal will be hammered out eventually, in days or perhaps weeks. In the meantime, the 24-7 news cycle will be saturated with political and economic analysis. Meanwhile pundits and pollsters will earn their paychecks focusing on how the fiscal crisis might impact the election next year. As the saying goes, “this too shall pass.” The next crisis will loom on the nearby horizon and draw our intent focus. The current shutdown will be a fading memory.

As we continue our journey, facing crisis after crisis, policymakers will continue to engage in a never-ending power struggle. Sure it makes for great political theater, but one cannot help but wonder about the impact that the political power struggle has on communities and people. The implications are so far reaching that they will never truly be understood because the drama keeps us so focused on short-term problems that it becomes very difficult to consider the long term.