Weatherford Democrat

October 22, 2013

Amazing grace


Weatherford Democrat

By DONNA BRAZILE

In the last hours of the government shutdown, the bizarre got even more bizarre. Progressive clergy and low-wage workers affected by the shutdown visited more than a dozen House offices and left a “consensus” letter from religious groups: “As people of faith and conscience, we urge you to place shared democratic values above short-term political expediency, exercise the courage to fund our nation’s government, raise the debt limit without preconditions and get back to work on a faithful budget that serves the common good.”

As they walked the halls of Congress, they sang the traditional hymn of faith, kindness, charity and redemption, “Amazing Grace.”

About the same time, House Republicans, to bolster their resolve to crash the economy, were also singing “Amazing Grace.” 

But there was nothing gracious or graceful about Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare, which, whatever its flaws, helps the ill, the indigent and the economy.

But the tea party/Republican shutdown hurt the economy. Standard and Poor’s, one of the world’s top financial research and ratings agencies, said the constitutional brinksmanship took $24 billion out of the economy and shaved our annual growth by nearly a full percentage point. “If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse,” S&P said, “they’ll remain afraid to open up their checkbooks. That points to another humbug holiday season. ... The bottom line is the government shutdown has hurt the U.S. economy.”

And it cost us jobs. One study by Think Progress estimates 900,000 jobs have been lost from austerity cuts. Polls show Americans’ confidence in their government has plummeted -- though not as far as their trust in elected officials.

We could use some more graciousness, civility and kindness. The acrimony and avarice corrupting Washington have infected the hearths of America. 

There’s been a start. 

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said of Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Leader McConnell stood up for the good of the nation.” Over in the House, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky said of Republican House Speaker John Boehner: “Today he is my hero.” 

We could use some honesty. There’s been a start on that, too. Sen. John McCain did some plain speaking about the effort to defund Obamacare that led to this nerve-wracking standoff. “It was a fool’s errand; we were not going to defund Obamacare ... so it was a terrific mistake,” he told NBC News. “We inflicted pain on the American people that was totally unnecessary, and we cannot do this again.” 

We could use some more leadership and collaboration in Congress. Thanks to the women, we’ve gotten a little more of that, too. “Leadership, I must fully admit,” McCain said earlier, “was provided primarily by women in the Senate.” That would be Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, who led the compromise effort of 14 senators, six of them women.

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Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News, and a contributing columnist to Ms. Magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine.