Government Shutdown: What the Dark Knight Can teach us About Republicans


“… some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” – Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies, and one of the most memorable quotes from that movie occurred when Bruce Wayne was having a conversation with his butler; Alfred Pennyworth, about criminal logic:

Bruce Wayne: Targeting me won’t get their money back. I knew the mob wouldn’t go down without a fight, but this is different. They crossed the line.

Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.

Bruce Wayne: Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. Just have to figure out what he’s after.

Alfred Pennyworth: With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that *you* don’t fully understand, either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?

Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

The leadership in the Republican Party decided last week to shut down the federal government, meaning hundreds of thousands of federal workers would be furloughed, national parks closed, and some essential services suspended. Republicans are now threatening to force the nation into defaulting on its debts if their ransom demands are not met.

What are their demands? Republicans no longer know. First, they requested that the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) be defunded, and then they wanted the individual mandate (part of the law requiring individuals to buy health insurance) repealed, and now, well now they are arguing that they cannot give in because they “refuse to be disrespected”. Republicans have been criticizing President Obama for not negotiating with them over the Continuing Resolution, a bill to fund the government, and the Debt Ceiling, but how can the president negotiate with individuals that cannot properly articulate what they want.

President Obama capitulated to Republicans in 2011 when he negotiated a deal over funding the government and raising the country’s debt ceiling, but now has refused to do so again because of the horrible precedent the first set of negotiations set. If Obama gives in, again, to Republicans demands it would allow Republicans to continue to extract policy concessions from the Obama Administration by threatening economic harm to the country.  By refusing to negotiate this time, President Obama has squeezed Republicans to the point of desperation.

President Obama, and no president for that matter, would ever agree to weaken/destroy their signature legislative achievement. Many Republicans have reached a point where they can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with; they are comfortable watching the country burn.


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