Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Dispatches from Kevin Yoder's Facebook Page

Over the past several days – over the weekend, on Monday as the government shutdown loomed, yesterday, and today – I decided to take a look at the Facebook page of Congressman Kevin Yoder.  As the deadline to fund the operations of the federal government approached and passed I wondered what the comments would be like on Rep. Yoder’s Facebook page.

I have no way of knowing whether the commenters on the Congressman’s page are representative of the majority of voters in Kansas’ third district who voted him into office in 2010.  (He ran unopposed in 2012.)  Who is more likely to comment on his page, those who support his positions or those who oppose them?  Who was more likely to post on his Facebook page at 11:30 on Monday night?  Are the commenters even his constituents or are they political activists from outside his congressional district?

I don’t know how representative those commenters are.  All I know is that a lot of them favored the government shutdown.  A LOT OF THEM.  Who are these people?  Accuse me of rubbernecking.  Accuse me of masochism.  Accuse me of a fascination with the grotesque, but after reading hundreds and hundreds of comments by people who think the government shutdown is a good thing, here is what I heard them saying:

Obama must be stopped.  These commenters don’t just believe that President Obama is promoting policies that they disagree with or that they think are unwise.  They don’t just believe that he’s governing in a way that is making America worse off.  These commenters deeply believe Obama is actively trying to destroy the country, that his presidency is doing irreparable harm to our nation.  Therefore the commenters have a message for members of the House:

Stand your ground.  The commenters feel that Obama is so bad that anything would be better.  Dig in your heels, they say.  In particular, the Affordable Care Act needs to be defunded because…

The ACA is evil.  The Affordable Care Act is Obama’s signature piece of legislation and those commenters in favor of a government shutdown think it is the most atrocious piece of legislation ever.  They are convinced that it will bankrupt the country, deprive people of their freedoms and rights, and/or drive people who already have health insurance into financial ruin.  Fundamentally, the commenters believe that…

Health care is not a right.  The commenters think that health care is a commercial service that should only be available to those who can afford it.  If you can’t afford it then that’s too bad for you.  As for the rest of the government…

The shutdown is a good first step.  Government is the enemy.  Many commenters urged Yoder to make the shutdown permanent.  Then make some real cuts.  What do you call 800,000 furloughed government employees?  A good start.  The commenters feel that the federal government is too big so anything that shrinks the government – a sequester, a shutdown – is good.  Or at least it is a good start.  Oh, but still…

Give me what I want.  Several posters commented that while they were all for a government shutdown, there should be an exception made for funding a particular service of the government that they liked.

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Let me be clear.  I could not disagree more vehemently with the six bolded statements above.  But hundreds and hundreds of commenters on Kevin Yoder’s Facebook page do.  Thousands of voters in Kansas’ third district favor the shutdown.  Millions of Americans are glad it’s happening.

A government shutdown may not be favored by a majority of Americans.  It may not be favored by a majority of voters in a majority of congressional districts.  It may not be favored by a majority of voters in Kevin Yoder’s district or even by a majority of those commenting on his Facebook page.  (However, I wouldn’t bet against him if there were an election held tomorrow.)

Let’s face it:  Remember those promises about cutting spending and reducing the size of government, about standing up to Obama and working to repeal the Affordable Care Act?  Those promises are being fulfilled by the sequester, by the shutdown, and by whatever the House has planned when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling.  All those calls for members of congress to go without pay during the shutdown are misguided.  The members of congress responsible for the shutdown are simply doing the job they promised they would do when elected.

How will it all end?  This piece in the Huffington Post says that it will take 17 Republicans voting out of line with their party to pass a resolution to end the shutdown.  It claims that 18 (all of whom but one or two serve solidly blue states) have hinted they would do so if given the chance.  Whether they will be given the chance is something that I don’t know the answer to.

I am extremely confident that the Senate and the President will not budge an inch on any matter of significance.  Nor should they.  Doing so would only set a precedent making shutdowns a legitimate governing tactic.  I don’t believe that they are.  Hundreds of commenters on Kevin Yoder’s Facebook page would disagree with me.

However it plays out, this might not be the last time we see these types of tactics this year.  The next fiscal cliff is only two weeks away.  Furthermore, I’m not sure that the 2014 midterm elections will offer a fix.  I predict that the citizens of our polarized and divided nation are likely to vote for the status quo.

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A final thought.  The story yesterday about WWII veterans breaking down the barricades to visit the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. got me thinking about other government services that we could receive through mob rule.  Should mothers who’ve had their WIC benefits cut now go and steal from the grocery store?  Should furloughed workers and small business owners raid the treasury for their salaries and loans?  Should children with cancer break into the NIH and self-administer their treatments?  Should sequester cuts to Head Start be addressed by kidnapping teachers and forcing them to teach our children?  It is the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the vulnerable who are the real victims here.  It’s the people living paycheck to paycheck.  It’s the regular folks just trying to get by.

Does anyone else feel like getting away?  Hey, I know, let’s break into NASA and plan our own space mission.