It is not just a “congressional shutdown” or a “government shutdown” it’s the REPUBLICAN SHUTDOWN. Every single mention of the shutdown should be preceded by the word “Republican” in all the headlines, every single time. As President Obama said in his speech on Tuesday,
“One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government, all because they did not like one law.
And there is no need for negotiations because there is nothing to negotiate. The Affordable Care Act is the law and it’s been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court — the Roberts Supreme Court.
But you would never know that only one party was to blame from the excessively even-handed reporting on this by the reporters, editors, and headline writers who need to start doing their job. And look who’s holding their feet to fire on this issue — Al Jazeera America. A piece written by Dan Froomkin “Shutdown coverage fails Americans” has been making the rounds, calling out the media on this sin of omission.
The truth of what happened Monday night, as almost all political reporters know full well, is that “Republicans staged a series of last-ditch efforts to use a once-routine budget procedure to force Democrats to abandon their efforts to extend U.S. health insurance.” (Thank you, Guardian.)
And holding the entire government hostage while demanding the de facto repeal of a president’s signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act. It is an attempt to make an end run around the normal legislative process. There is no historical precedent for it. The last shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, were not the product of unilateral demands to scrap existing law; they took place during a period of give-and-take budget negotiations.
But the political media’s aversion to doing anything that might be seen as taking sides — combined with its obsession with process — led them to actively obscure the truth in their coverage of the votes. If you did not already know what this was all about, reading the news would not help you understand.
What makes all this more than a journalistic failure is that the press plays a crucial role in our democracy. We count on the press to help create an informed electorate. And perhaps even more important, we rely on the press to hold the powerful accountable.
If you want to contact the House Republicans and tell them to stop holding the government hostage to their extremist demands, go to Credo Action where you can find the phone numbers of Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, and John Boehner, as well as a helpful script. Or go off script and give them a piece of your mind and demand that they end the REPUBLICAN SHUTDOWN.