I am reminded of the story in 1 Samuel 4, when the Israelites had just lost a battle to the Philistines and wanted to turn the tide in their seemingly neverending war. Someone in the Israelite camp got the genius idea that they could really turn this thing around if they brought out the Ark of the Covenant and toted it into battle – because obviously they had seen how it melted people’s faces off in that Indiana Jones movie. The Bible records that when the Ark entered the camp, the Israelites shouted with such excitement that it shook the very earth and all the Philistines were afraid. However, at the end of the day, God was not amused at being used for a talisman, and he caused the Israelites to suffer a devastating defeat at the hands of the Philistines.
As Republicans and Democrats march into battle I’m struck by how unthinking and predictable this particular battle is. Republicans are carting out “Obamacare,” believing that invocation of the word will get the public on their side in this given debate. Democrats, on the other hand, are carrying the Ark of the Shutdown before them, in the belief that their invocation of the word will send Republicans scurrying for cover. The whole thing could be described as kabuki theater; however, that would be an insult to fine kabuki artists the world over.
The saddest part of the whole charade is that neither talisman will likely have any effect at all in the battle for the general public. Polls consistently show that the public dislikes Obamacare, and that Republicans will likely get blamed for any shutdown pretty much no matter what. What the clueless politicians don’t understand is that, while people have opinions largely in line with theirs, those opinions have now fallen so low on the priority scale that agreement or disagreement on these issues is already entirely baked in to voting patterns, such that no one really gives a crap one way or another about either issue.
However, the Democrats’ talisman has a tremendous effect on Republicans. While the American public expressed their anger over the 2013 shutdown with a giant yawn in the 2014 elections, the mere mention of “shutdown” by Democrats sends Republicans scurrying for cover like vampires running from a crucifix. As a consequence, Republicans never get to see the political effects of their alleged plans (if we take for granted that they actually want to accomplish any of the things set forth in their budget) because the Democrats’ talisman is wholly and completely effective in convincing them not to fight at all.
What the Republicans need is someone who will stand up and say, as the Philistines did:
5 And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. 6 Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the Lordhad come into the camp. 7 So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp!” And they said, “Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines, that you do not become servants of the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!”
10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 Also the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
Unfortunately for all of us, whenever someone like [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] or [mc_name name=’Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’L000577′ ] sticks their heads up to deliver this message, Republican leadership is there to chop it off. And thus, in the end, only one side has a talisman that actually works.