Living in a town with no government

The individual is King here in America. Federal government is closed, and so far you’d hardly notice. Turns out people can live without the services of the Poet Laureate for a week. No-one has taken to the streets in an American ‘Arab Spring’. The heroes of this revolt are nicely tucked up in bed at night, and applauded by many for saying ‘Freedom is the right of the healthy not to pay for the sick.’ 

They really really hate Obamacare. Ok, I’m in Georgia and the South where Republicans rule, but its only by being here (visiting my Obama-voting family) that I start to understand how Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the defacto Che Guavara of this Tea Party revolution could bring government to a grinding halt.

I still think the Republicans will pay for this in the next election. All the polls show that most people blame them for the shutdown (63% blame Republicans, 57% blame Democrats).

But the forty of so Tea-baggers in Congress will keep their seats, so they have nothing to lose. They owe their political life to gerrymandering State legislators who allowed Republicans in places like Texas to draw safe conservative districts. They’re funded by powerful conservative lobby groups like the Tea party Patriot, Americans for Prosperity, and FreedomWorks - not the Republican party.

It’s not just that they ignore moderate Republicans like House speaker and defacto leader of their party, John Boehner; they have him by the short and curlies. 

Their seats are safe (and well funded). His isn’t.

Their local support is not to be sniffed at. These Tea Party renegades have tapped into a rich vein in the American psyche, the part that yearns for the days when federal government in American kept out of people’s lives and did nothing except run the military and foreign policy. No income tax, no federal laws. The State legislature ruled supreme. 

These guys really don’t believe in America at all.

At first the shutdown looked like a coup without guns, with Ted Cruz as a Baptist preaching Bainimarama in a suit. It’s true, they are revolutionary. With no sense of irony, the early preachers of the Tea Party movement used to quote liberally from Saul Alinsky’s left-wing activist hand book ‘Rules from Radicals’. They are now fulfilling their gorilla warfare dream to literally ‘get government out of the way.’ I’ve never seen Michele Bachmann look so happy. ‘The party is energised...This is what the public want,’ she said a few nights ago on Fox News. 

Some Tea Party leaders even talk about the need for ‘second amendment remedies’. Nearly half of all Republicans think that an armed insurrection may be necessary in a few years. 

Obama cannot negotiate with these Republican lemmings in suicide vests.

But they are not, as some have said, changing the principles of the constitution. They are sticking to the rule of law. They may be setting a political precedent by re-negotiating laws they don’t like at a time when they should be agreeing a budget so America can pay its bills. But they are not setting a legal one. 

They are political vandals, not coup-makers.

I was at a ‘block party’ yesterday, where neighbours close their street, bring a plate and hang out together. If the shutdown continues, and if Republicans won’t support a rise to the debt ceiling, then we may see people like this take to the streets without their plates. 

Government funded pre-school programs have closed. One man has a son working for the Coastguard, and since the shutdown, relying on limited satellite and weather information. He’s worried about his boy.

Atlanta is home to the Centres for Disease Control & Protection (CDC) where the world’s only vial of small pox is stored, next to the test tube of Ebola and other nasties. The shutdown has closed the CDC, which means that no-one is working on curing people of nasty diseases. 

A virologist said that he was meant to be working on a vaccine for next years flu virus. ‘My advice to people is don’t get the flu next winter’.

Small hotels in national parks have had to close and cancel reservations. Americans hate stories of small businesses getting whacked.

But then I chatted to a shop assistance at the mall. Young, fit and black. He hates the idea of Obamacare. ‘Why should I have to pay a fine if I don’t have health insurance? I get check ups. I’m fit. It should be my choice.’ How do you explain to a young guy selling Ralph Lauren suits that he better hope he never ends up in a hospital in America later in life.

At least the late night comedians have had a great week. Americans tune into Jay Leno or the Daily Show (depending on their politics) to work out what they really think about the shutdown. Not many would disagree with comedian Stephen Colbert’s analysis: "Republicans don't want to shut the government down, they want to end this stalemate and get back to the important work of crippling the government."

If there’s one thing Americans in the South are starting to hate more than Obamacare, its a government shutdown.