Not being a historian, a student of the American Revolution, or even a student of politics, I realize I am on shaky ground here. But I think what we are currently witnessing in our American political scene is totally without precedent. I find it impossible to believe our Founding Fathers ever conceived of a time when one of the three equal branches of our government would refuse to participate, to govern. Our system was deliberately designed to prevent one branch from having all the power, and, in fact to operate on the premise of compromise (I think there are problems inherent in this approach, but that is another matter entirely). The three branches are supposed to discuss our mutual problems, work out a suitable compromise, and then move on. It was, I am pretty sure, never expected that one branch would simply refuse to participate in compromising (by implication, governing). But that is what has been happening during the Obama administration. Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, announced early on they would be the party of “no.” They have religiously clung to this position and have, indeed, said no to virtually everything. They have also said publicly their number one priority is to make Obama a one-term President, in other words to destroy his Presidency. There is little doubt this has much to do with their refusal to compromise or say yes to anything, and the consequences for our country of this rigid attitude are potentially devastating. Quite frankly, much of the problem is a result of electing a large number of know-nothings, apparently borderline morons, to the House, selecting those stupid enough to pledge not to govern, but, again, that is a slightly different matter.
As what is happening is completely unprecedented there is no precedent for dealing with it, nothing that can be done. As it was unanticipated there were no provisions made for such a situation. Consider, for example, that in some countries, individuals who refuse to co-operate might well be dragged off to mental institutions, or arrested and put in prison, or even worse, lined up and shot. I am not recommending such draconian actions, merely pointing out that we have no such means available to us, none at all. In the long run we do have a means of dealing with such individuals, we can vote them out of office, but this is a slow process that may or may not eventually work, and in the meanwhile so much damage can occur it is not very helpful.
As far as I know, or can remember, nothing like this ever happened before, and there is no label for it. I personally believe it is certainly traitorous, if not even perhaps treasonous. But at the moment I guess it is considered “politics as usual.” I do not think it is politics as usual. I do not believe the Founding Fathers ever considered there would be a situation in which one of the three branches of government would simply refuse to function. Similarly, I do not believe they contemplated a situation in which one of two political parties would place the interests of their party before the interests of the people at large or the national interest. Furthermore, I doubt they thought people would run for public office for the purpose of filling their own pockets for personal gain, rather than providing for the public well-being. Those who elect to run for public office are supposed to be interested in the welfare of the citizens they serve rather than the interests of corporate giants and the incredibly wealthy. The Founding Fathers were aware of this possibility, and cautioned against it, but over the years their advice has been ignored and largely forgotten.
Obviously our world, and nation, is quite different from what it was at its founding. Public service then was a patriotic duty and those who sought office had only that in mind, having never heard of General Motors, Exxon, Boeing, Walmart, and so on. Of course there might have been individuals who had personal motives as well, but as there were no lobbyists and no huge sums of money available to them this could not have been much of a problem. And so what began as a wonderful dream of a democratic society, for the people, by the people, and of the people, has evolved over time into a near Fascist society controlled by huge international corporations and a few unbelievably wealthy families. This was inevitable under a capitalistic system sold to the public as the greatest economic system on earth, but one really designed to bring about the outcome we are now experiencing, where most of the wealth is in the hands of a few and the general populace is being gradually reduced to serfdom and economic slavery. I cannot help but wonder what Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and others would think were they alive today. I don’t think they would be very happy with how their experiment has turned out.