Remember back in 2011 when Minnesota House Rep. Michele Bachmann told us that God wanted her to run for President in 2012? Or when former Missouri House Rep. Todd Akin's said, on television, that the female body can shut down a pregnancy if it results from a "legitimate rape?"
I remember thinking they were out of their minds. But, in fact, they are not – Bachmann and Akin are both very educated individuals. They just happened to be doing a damn good job appealing to the tea party supporters, an extreme end of the GOP constituency.
The tea party members are volatile extremists with an ideological agenda to push, and we have more than seen the effects of this extremism for the past few weeks. We can pass around blame for the shutdown all we want, but at the end of the day it served as merely another conduit for the tea party to push its agenda and antagonize both the middle and the left of the political spectrum.
Since the end of the 16-day vacation from the federal government, I've had plenty of time to mull it over and consider its implications. The conclusion I have come to is that Americans desperately need a serious wake-up call about what's been going on in the Republican party.
The Grand Ole Party of America has been hijacked by the tea party, a small group of, for lack of a more polite description, religious wack-jobs. During the 2010 midterms, when we saw a large influx of tea party hardliners running for Congress, I thought, 'This must be a joke. Surely people don't really think these things.'
If you also paid attention during the midterms, I'm sure you too can recall all the interesting things we heard from the tea party throughout the process. My personal favorite was former Republican Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnoll, who thankfully warned us about the dire implications of masturbation and described AIDS awareness as a "platform for the homosexual community to recruit adolescents."
As you can see, their candidates really try to focus on the pressing, important issues.
As far as the shutdown goes, I am entirely unsurprised that this group found it appropriate to hold our funding hostage in order to undermine the nefarious Obamacare. Republicans knew this plan was going to fail.
In the eloquent words of our own Sen. Bob Corker, "I didn't go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count – the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position."
Corker's words expose Texas tea party-backed Sen. Ted Cruz – a Harvard and Princeton graduate – and his lack of consideration for how many votes the GOP currently has in the Senate.
My greatest problem with Cruz comes from the fact that Texas has one of the largest populations of uninsured people in the country. Twenty-five percent of Texans go without medical insurance, yet Cruz remains dead set on defunding Obamacare.
For those of you already rushing to your laptops to accuse me of being a socialist via hate mail, consider again. An entire quarter of the state lacks the resources to receive proper medical care; Cruz is essentially telling them "tough luck." His language is all about defunding and repealing the Affordable Care Act when it should be about refining the law and making it work the best it can in his state.
Do I think Obamacare is the best, most efficient way of fixing the health insurance problem? Absolutely not, but it's time we deal with the reality of the situation. Obama is here to stay until 2016 and apparently so is the Affordable Care Act, so the tea party may as well make do with what we have, instead of forcing counter-productive measures (read: closing the government for more than two weeks).
The point I'm driving home is that extremism gives people tunnel vision. It becomes impossible to see the bigger picture and see from different perspectives when you are entirely focused on pushing one ideological agenda.
Maybe the shutdown was the jolt people needed to open their eyes to the volatility of the tea party. If the eye-opening is further reflected in the next midterms, I'll certainly call it a win for more than just the blue-state liberals.
It will be a win for logical people everywhere.
Katie Dean is a junior in political science. She can be reached at email@example.com.