According to the old saying, the two things regular people don’t want to watch are sausage making and law making. This has been true for decades, or actually centuries.
It’s fun. I was at a late meeting when the news came that the federal government was about to shut down for the first time since 1996.
People asked if anyone had a TV, and one was brought into the room. Everyone watched with rapt attention. When the clock hit midnight (in Washington) and the news announced that the government was officially shut down, some of the people in the room cheered.
This sparked a debate, and it was really quite fun. In the next hour, people talked more deeply about the realities of the situation.
“It probably won’t stay shut down for long.”
“It will reopen and spend more than ever.”
“Obamacare officially kicked in at the same moment that the shutdown began.”
The room was full of people who carefully watch the news and had strong opinions.
Then someone asked the really poignant question:
“Isn’t the debate on the debt ceiling in a few weeks the really big news? Much bigger than the government shutting down? And isn’t that the best time for Republicans to fight against Obamacare? After all, the American people overwhelmingly want their leaders to fight against raising the debt ceiling.”
Then, the obvious next question came:
“Why did Republicans bring up Obamacare as part of the debate on the continuing resolution to keep the government running? Most Americans want the government to stay open, the polls say. So why would conservative leaders not just wait and fight this battle when the debt debate comes up?”
Ah, the beauty of sausage making. That’s what makes this so fun.
By making Obamacare such a big point right now, leaders like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and others are putting it at the top of the agenda for the debt ceiling debate.
It’s brilliant. It’s good politics. In fact, it’s also good leadership.
But it’s a lot more than these things. It’s something much better: It’s fun!
This means that regular people might tune in to the drama.
“Nothing has been this fun since Rand Paul’s filibuster,” I heard someone say. People noted the last primaries and election weren’t fun at all, but this is.
It remains to be seen if this will catch on or spread, but if it does, the debate on the debt ceiling could keep America from going much further into long-term economic decline. This could be a much-needed turning point.
The media outlets are all ablaze — with Fox News and MSNBC arguing in high chant. If this grows, if more Ted Cruz and Mike Lee clips keep airing on all the networks (as heroes or villains, depending on the network), it could get even more interesting.
If it actually becomes entertaining, it could have a real impact on the 2014 midterms and 2016 elections.
In a Republican Party so deeply dominated by “establishment men” like George Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Chris Christie, for example, it is interesting to see a Reaganesque rise of strong conservatives like Cruz, Lee, Paul and Rubio. It’s unclear if this will translate into presidential politics, but the Republican base certainly hopes it does.
In the meantime, a lot of people who had given up on the GOP are sitting up and taking notice. Maybe a real political battle is ahead, and if so, it’s going to be better than a horse race.
This doesn’t mean that the issues will be trivial, not at all. It does mean that maybe, just maybe, the Right is starting to reawaken. Some conservatives are saying that they haven’t felt this kind of energy since 1980.
Time will tell, but we might be in for the return of politics. And real politics — where two parties truly stand for a different future, one for bigger government and the other for truly limited government — is more entertaining than the Super Bowl.
Except that it matters a lot more which side wins.
Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.
Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.