It’s hard to know whether to feel pity or disgust for you as we watch you whine, bellow, threaten and renege your way through a government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis that you easily could end by behaving like the Speaker of the House, not the spokesman for the Tea Party Caucus. Your inability and/or unwillingness to put the well-being of the country and our most vulnerable people ahead of your apparent concern about keeping your speakership is very unsettling, particularly to persons not ensconced in the Beltway bubble that seems to have clouded your judgment.
Certainly, it’s not easy to stand up to the Tea Party, especially knowing that failing to do its bidding could lead to your ouster as Speaker. But perhaps considering three simple and unassailable facts could give you the backbone you need to do the right thing:
First, ‘Obamacare’ is the law of the land. Period.
The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was duly passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional. Afterward, we had a presidential election in which the law was a pivotal issue, and the candidate who signed the law beat the candidate who promised to repeal it. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
Your failure to stop Obamacare from going into effect – despite pulling out all of the stops with your irresponsible and unpatriotic Tea Party-dictated tactics – only strengthened the law. Sure, you can hope to take over the Senate and the presidency and eventually repeal it. But it’s too late even for that.
Don’t be fooled by the polls supposedly showing the law’s “unpopularity.” It’s one thing for someone to say they don’t like something called “Obamacare” in the abstract, especially after it’s been demagogued for years as the worst kind of socialist government takeover. But it’s a whole ‘nother thing to relinquish all of the benefits the law actually confers.
By the time you manage to regain the Senate and White House (an increasing longshot given the taste you’ve offered us of Republican rule) then, folks will be well used to, grateful for and expect to keep Obamacare’s entitlements. If you want to repeal Obamacare, you’ll have to rip it out of Americans’ warm, healthier-thanks-to-having-affordable-healthcare hands.
Of course, we know that this is only partly about Obamacare. This is really much less about care and much more about Obama. The government shutdown and impending debt ceiling crisis are being driven by a loud, well-financed and unhinged portion of your party that can’t stand the thought that Barack Obama, a Black man, is president. And they’re acting like they’ve lost their minds.
Pushing back on this kind of hysteria is hard, but you should do it, Mr. Speaker. And as you do it, you and all of your sane friends should remind these people of the second simple but unassailable fact: President Obama will always and forever more be the 44th president of the United States.
Regardless how much, how often, how vociferously you disparage him, smear him, hate on him, block him, mock him, President Obama will always and forever more be the 44th president of the United States.
You can shut down the government and throw us into default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, but President Obama will always and forever more be the 44th president of the United States.
Even if you impeached him tomorrow, President Obama will always and forever more be the 44th president of the United States.
The portion of your caucus that seems to be pulling the strings these days may have a little trouble wrapping their Obama-deranged minds around this fact, but you should try anyway. Who knows? You might convince a few of them to divert their efforts to something more productive than using an old, worn-down pencil-tip eraser to try to remove something that is and will for eternity be deeply chiseled into the granite of history.
We now come to the third and final simple but unassailable fact: You will always and forever more be the 61st Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
You are part of an exclusive group. Some of your predecessors are more well-known than others – Sam Rayburn, William Bankhead, Nicholas Longworth, and Tip O’Neill come to immediate mind. We know their names but how many Americans know how long any of them served as Speaker? Probably very few.
But we do know that they were all Speakers of the House because their names are etched into history.
And that’s the point. Just like President Obama, your place in history is set, too. Regardless whether you’re voted out tomorrow or serve another 20 years, you will always and forever more be the 61st Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Your name is engraved in our nation’s historical rock and cannot be expunged by a handful of ignorant, anti-government nuts with Congressional lapel pins.
So, Mr. Speaker, why not serve your time as Speaker with dignity, self-respect, and a regard for our country and the people in it? Please stand up and do the right thing, even if it means that posterity records your tenure as Speaker in low single digits. You not only owe it to us, you owe it to history – and to yourself.
Stephanie Jones is president of Stephanie Jones Strategies, a Washington, D.C. public affairs firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org