Well, they did it. As of this writing, the extremist faction of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, usually identified with the so-called tea party, forced the federal government into shutdown for the first time since the Clinton administration.
Rather than taking the common-sense, rational step of sending a clean continuing resolution to the Senate - I won't even get into why we are funding the government via continuing resolutions rather than a real budget - they insisted on sending the Senate a bill laden with riders, chief of which was a demand to defund the Affordable Care Act.
The reaction of the Democratic majority in the Senate was predictable: They refused to accept those riders. And so it went, back and forth, right up to the deadline.
Now national parks and other monuments are closed, the CDC is no longer providing surveillance for the outbreak of contagious diseases, most routine food inspections by the FDA have been suspended and, among others, about half the Defense Department's civilian workers will be furloughed. Some 800,000 federal employees are out of work.
If the shutdown is still in effect today, it will have cost the economy nearly $1 billion.
And why? For one of three reasons: The GOP, especially its radical fringe, really hates President Barack Obama; the GOP, especially its radical fringe, really doesn't believe that certain classes of people, especially low-income people struggling to survive, deserve to have health insurance; or, in many cases, probably both.
So many half-truths, prevarications and outright lies have been told about Obamacare that it almost defies belief. Visit factcheck.org or politifact.com for a nauseating assortment. What makes this especially ironic is that much of the Affordable Care Act was cribbed straight from Massachusetts' model under Mitt Romney, and Republicans had no problem with that. Apparently health-care reforms are only bad if they come from a Democratic president.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have never been a fan of Obama. Those who remember far enough back will also recall that I opposed the fact that Obamacare was rammed through on a party-line vote. I'm still no fan of the president, but I now realize that it's a good thing he has never made a point of the sky being blue, or Republicans in Congress would insist on passing a resolution that it's green.
You don't have to like someone or agree with everything he says or does to distinguish between what is seriously screwed up (warrantless collection and storage of everyone's electronic communications comes to mind) and what is actually a benefit to the citizens of this country - as Obamacare is, once stripped of distortions and falsehoods.
The extreme ideological polarization of this country is doing severe damage to our elected representatives' ability to conduct the business of this country in a rational and appropriate fashion. If not reined in, it threatens to make this once-proud nation - as several commentators have recently warned - ungovernable. And even once the current shutdown is resolved, we'll be facing the same thing again in a couple of months because, again, this is not a real budget, but just another continuing resolution.
Word to Congress, especially those responsible for this foolishness: Grow up. That includes Carroll County's new representative, Republican Andy Harris, who voted to attach the rider defunding Obamacare to the continuing resolution, thus contributing to the current shutdown. Start acting like responsible representatives, rather than spoiled brats. Our country needs them to govern, not try to win brownie points for their side like kids on the playground. And if they can't step up to the plate, then step down.