Our country has gone through many distinct historical phases. We had the founding, a period of gallantry and virtue; the populist Jacksonian government with the democratic rise of the common man; and many wars from the vengeful and hateful Civil War, to the righteous ones like WWII, and even to the quagmires like Vietnam and Iraq.

Today we find ourselves in a different age. An age of vile partisanship and defecting politicians. This is an age of incompetence, where egocentric party leaders ruin the country they were elected to serve. We have reached day nine of the government shutdown, and both Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Obama continue to make irate speeches that move the country nowhere but backwards.

President Obama said on Wednesday that “the reason we’re where we are right now is because Speaker [John] Boehner, the House Republicans, thought that they could get leverage in budget negotiations or defund the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, by taking us to the brink.” It’s the Republicans, stupid. Speaker Boehner spoke in similar terms. Boehner said, “The president said today if there’s unconditional surrender by Republicans, he’ll sit down and talk to us….That’s not the way our government works.” Again, it’s not Boehner or the Republicans, it’s Obama and his party.

It takes a lot of leadership to humble oneself for the betterment of others. Both sides seem to be missing leadership at the expense of many Americans who are tired of the gridlock. In fact, a recent poll shows that 52 percent of the American people blame President Obama for not negotiating enough with Republicans on the Affordable Care Act while 63 percent blame the Republicans.

The American people are tired of politics and Washington. But some families have more than just a complaint against Washington: they have the corpses of their relatives. As both sides bicker, military families are hurting, especially the families of Sgt. Patrick Hawkins, Pfc. Cody Patterson, Sgt. Joseph Peters, and First Lt. Jennifer Moreno, all of whom gave their lives for their country. Their families will not receive the death benefits usually used to pay for the funerals of dead soldiers. In addition, there’s the 800,000 “nonessential” government employees who have been furloughed due to the shutdown. These employees come from essential agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Social Security Administration, and the very essential Office for the Families of the Fallen within the Veterans Benefits Administration.

As outraged as both sides are about the shutdown, nothing is getting done. There seems to be no end in sight.

We certainly live in a period of inaction which today, sadly enough, pays off pretty well especially to Tea Party Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz who grab the spotlight on the daily news propelling him to the top slot with other 2016 Republican contenders. That’s the problem with today’s government (with whatever is left of it). Both parties profit from their extreme grassroots organizations by doing nothing and by not working with the other side of the aisle as Americans are kept hurting.

As a result, you get a pathetic government that is prone to sabotage by political ambition. Such a government is far, far away from serving the public good. You get a government that is lazy and incompetent, a government that clearly lacks energy.

As the Founders argued for our system of government against Thomas Jefferson’s anti-federalists, they saw a grave danger from a bland institution like the Articles of Confederation where nothing got done. But nothing got done not because of a powerful Congress, but a weak presidency. The Founders understood that there would be a lot of bickering in the legislative, but they equally understood that the executive would step in to fix the situation.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 70 that “Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.”

Both parties are to blame for this shutdown, and shame on them for not repairing the pain that has been visited on many American families.  However, clearly, the “buck stops here” as President Truman and Federalist No. 70 proclaimed.

President Obama needs to negotiate and come to terms with the fact that there is divided government. At least that’s how our government was envisioned in 1787. That’s the only way our country can move forward.


Alex Uzarowicz | Knox College | @AUzarowicz