Republican tactics are not terrorist
Last week on Hardball, Chris Matthews, frustrated with Republican threats on the debt ceiling, went and blurted out the “t-word.” Surely, by refusing to support raising the debt limit as has been done routinely by the House since 1917 when it was vested with such authority, Republicans are not literally employing terrorist tactics. Before leveling such an accusation, perhaps Mr. Matthews should have consulted the FBI’s working definition of terrorism:
“The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to coerce or intimidate a government, a civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Let’s start from the end of the definition and work back. Are Republican’s attempting to further political or social objectives? Certainly, but that alone does not make them terrorists. The right to sway political opposition to your point of view through reasoned argument or negotiation is the foundation of sound policymaking and legislation.
What about coercion and intimidation, are Republicans employing such tactics against segments of the government or civilian population? Absent the ability to get its agenda enacted through traditional political channels, an opposition party can turn to negotiation or coercion. Have the Republicans engaged in negotiation? Well, if you consider an element of compromise to be part of the negotiating process, then no. As Republican commentator David Brooks pointed out, to the dismay of many of his colleagues, if Republicans were willing to even compromise a little, they would get a deal about which previous Republicans could only have dreamed.
Coercion involves the use of threats to achieve your goals. Since their sole bargaining position has been based on a single threat, rather than a willingness to compromise in any area, we can safely say Republicans are being coercive. Threats, however, are part of hardball politicking, not terrorism, right?
Let’s look at the nature of the financial threat. Certain obligations will be met. As far as I can tell, the choice of which obligations falls entirely in the hands of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner, who will first pay off the interest of U.S. Treasury bonds so the country meets its apparent Constitutional obligation to service its debt. After that, as an article on salon.com lucidly explains, there is not enough money to go around for social programs like Medicare and Medicaid, while also paying money owed to defense and other government contractors (or anything else, for that matter).
According to Moody’s, even if the U.S. pays off its public debt obligations, it will potentially reduce America’s credit rating out of concerns of future instability brought about by a failure to raise the debt ceiling. The effect of more expensive lending would ripple through the economy and, coupled with the sudden contraction with government spending, cause a severe downturn in the economy.
Granted, in the past, terrorists have similarly threatened to crash the American economy. Bin Laden bragged of his strategy to cause the U.S. “to bleed profusely to the point of bankruptcy.” Iran, Syria, and North Korean have long been suspected to counterfeiting large amounts of U.S. currency in an effort to weaken the U.S. Cyberterrorism and “dirty bombs” are considered, above all, weapons of mass economic destruction.
However, just because Republicans are threatening American property in order to coerce and intimidate sections of the government in order to achieve their political objectives, it does not make them terrorists. Why?
Because the American public chose to have a majority Republican House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections. The first condition of terrorism is the use of violence, and none is being used. Even if it were, governments use the threat of violence to coerce their citizens in a variety of ways that are deemed legitimate within a democratic system.
For a democracy to function, supporters of the losing party have to accept that they are sometimes at the mercy of the majority party, no matter how bad their judgment might be. Still, if it comes to it, I for one, will have less compassion for the person who fails to receive their salary or their benefit check come August, or suffers from the inevitable economic disaster that follows, if I know they voted Republican in November of 2010. Material support of non-violent extremism that threatens the welfare of this country may be legal, but it still involves a certain amount of moral complicity.