Precedent setting and the shutdown

Posted: October 12, 2013 by Steve in Uncategorized

The shutdown is a great drama (tragedy) unfolding before our eyes. It is also a great illustration of power dynamics and how the peculiarities of humans play into the process. One side of this drama are the Republicans who feel they have power because they can “blow up the house” if we don’t do as they say.

They feel that they have this power, because in a dispute of this kind before, they have bullied the Democrats and Obama into using that threat to get concessions. Here we see the power of precedents. Once Obama and the Democrats agreed to negotiate policy in relation to the funding the government and the raising the debt ceiling, a precedent was set that something that was not negotiable was now negotiable. Since that precedent was set, the Republicans have used the that threat over and over to try to get ordinary policy concessions. This time it appears that Obama is determined to set a new precedent (or undo the precedent that was set) that it is time to go back to the way things used to be.

Precedent’s are important in human relationships, because they involve moving the boundaries of acceptable behavior in groups. We all operate in our daily lives within the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. Is it acceptable to love someone of the same gender. For a long time (most of civilized history), it was considered not acceptable. More recently people have been pushing the boundary of what was considered acceptable through acts of precedent setting like first talking about what was unmentionable, then by doing in the open what was once considered unwatchable, then by changing laws to legitimize was was once illegal.

Obama is trying to put the genie back in the bottle by restoring the precedent of what is acceptable behavior by political parties in congress.

Next up the fillibuster?

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