From the shutdown caucus, it’s described as “the Republican party’s quixotic stand on principle.”
Some Washington pundits label it an attempt to nullify not only the Affordable Care Act but the entire Obama presidency.
It wasn’t a conflict of ideologies at all, but a conflict of strategies, some tell us.
Still others point to the whole sorry mess as an example of how a minority can force its will on the majority — both sides use that one.
Then there’s what we might call the South Will Rise Again theory. These theorists point to the role Southern representatives played in the fiasco. It’s concrete evidence, we’re told, of how the States’ Rights Democrats of old have risen to power as Republicans.
Popular among the pundits who predicted the outcome will be that the whole thing was an exercise in futility and that the conclusion was inevitable from the start.
And of course fingers are rightly pointed at the Tea Party congressmen for their willingness to accept an economic disaster but unwillingness to come to the aid of 25 million Americans without health insurance.
What is not getting much attention, and should be, is that if history teaches us nothing else, it should remind us that what has taken place is nothing new. Conflicts between ideologies and interests have been part of the American political scene as long as there has been an American political scene. Government shutdowns alone have been the stage on which 17 previous disagreements have been acted out.
This is because the system was designed to work this way. Our famous “checks and balances” were created by James Madison on the conviction, expressed in Federalist 51, that in order to preserve our republican form of government “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”
That is surely what played out in Washington over the past weeks.
The ambitions of the parties, of their factions and the politicians who sought to gain from the shutdown and debt-ceiling fight came in conflict, counteracted each other, and though one side gained much more than the other, the only clear winner when the dust settled were the American people.
And James Madison.