What happens to the political class if the debt ceiling talks fail? Political analyst Jeff Greenfield thinks it might provide the backdrop for the rise of a third party:
At 2:30 on Monday morning, Aug. 1, 2011, the clerk of the House announced that the motion had failed. Within 24 hours, the government of the United States would be unable to pay its debts.
The political recriminations were as swift and ferocious as the economic fallout, which the hastily contrived debt-ceiling fix three days later did nothing to soften. The 1,400-point drop in the Dow, Moody’s move to downgrade the rating of federal debt, the fever spike in interest rates for mortgages and business loans, the delays in paying federal contractors, the impending layoffs — all had been predicted months before the debt limit was breached.
And the first wave of public reaction was equally predictable: Congress’s job-approval rating fell into the low teens, while President Obama’s dropped into the mid-20s. Nine in 10 Americans surveyed said they thought the country was on the wrong track (“The 10th one is in a coma,” Conan O’Brien quipped).
But then something else began to happen to American politics, something that turned a long-standing political fantasy into a reality…
Until now, when the two-party system had failed at one of the government’s most basic jobs: protecting the full faith and credit of the country’s obligations. The persistent, low-level discontent with Republicans and Democrats suddenly became a tidal wave sweeping across ideological lines, encapsulated by one tweetable, postable, share-able word: “Enough!”
I think Greenfield puts forth a plausible scenario, but I’m still skeptical. Is the Great American Middle angry enough to demand change? Is it willing to get involved to making government work? Would the debt ceiling crisis be the catalyst to launching a great reform in America?
I want to believe that something could happen, something that will move us beyond this deadlock that has made American politics so toxic. I’m just not so sure Americans give a damn as much as to bring about something new.
I’d like to be proven wrong.