As of 12:01 am today the first government shutdown in 17 years began. Unlike pundits on the major news media, I do not believe this one will be over soon and may include a debt ceiling crisis that will cause the United States to default on debts already agreed to and money already spent.
The reason for pessimism on when we might see the end of this debacle is that the cause of our totally ineffectual governance for the last three years, is the perfect convergence of all the flaws in our private system of elections. The first of these is allowing the party in power in each state to draw new election districts to match changes in population. The result, no matter which party is in power, are gerrymandered political districts to make sure the party in power stays in power and do not reflect the political actuality of voters votes. This is one of the reasons Democrats could receive millions more votes for Congress nationally yet Republicans stayed in control of the House of Representatives in 2012.
In addition, many of the Republican districts are so Republican, or Democratic Party districts so Democratic that the other party is a nominal entity and the primary for the party in power is the only real election. In the 2014 election it is likely, if the Republican incumbent is defeated, it will be by someone even more Conservative and even more likely to be intransigent against functional governance than the current Republican member of Congress.
In addition, states like Pennsylvania have been gerrymandered so completely that no matter how badly the Republicans are blamed for this latest episode of dysfunctional governance Democrats have absolutely no chance of taking control of the House, no matter how many more votes they receive in the next election.
In part, this is because the media in the 9th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, as in many election districts all across America, tell only the Conservative side, and there is an almost complete black out on any idea other than those of Right Wing Talk Radio. In the election of 2012 the Democratic candidate in the 9th Congressional District of Pennsylvania was seen by one of the local papers as unworthy of votes, because they believed in Global Climate Change. For those of us who have read the IPCC report released this week, that would appear to be an insane position, but you need to understand that some Americans live in an alternative world with completely different sets of truths and Fox News has successfully inoculated Conservatives from even considering beliefs other than dittoes.
Citizens United is the final piece to this political perfect storm. The role of money has become the single most important factor in elections. Millions of dollars pour into our privatized election financing system with no disclosure. This allows our elected representatives to be little more than corporate employees. Republicans, who might have been willing to vote for a clean continuing resolution to keep the government open, were fearful of the very threat that if you don't hang with the Tea Party you will have a primary with a heavily financed opponent from the Tea Party. Freedom Works, Dick Armey's lobbying group functions like a completely privatized political party and is capable of bank rolling this threat with millions of corporate dollars.
They come in providing the financing, the campaign workers, yard signs, bumper stickers and any other support as necessary. This provides instant credibility for extreme candidates so that if anything, in the next election the results will be even more polarized and dysfunctional. This is the political version of the perfect storm because nothing of substance or necessity can pass and the nation becomes incapable of addressing the pressing problems such as job creation, or rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or addressing the destruction of this planet by green house gasses by the very corporations funding the Right Wing intransigence. Until we get the money out of our politics it will only get worse.