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OUR VIEW: Democracy should operate better than this

The extreme fringe of the Republican Party is mostly responsible for the shutdown of the federal government that began at midnight Tuesday. Make no mistake about that.

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Like a child who won’t give up a toy until he gets his way, the party’s most extreme members in the House — including South Dakota’s own Kristi Noem — have decided to hold the operations of the government hostage because they don’t like the three-year-old Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA for short, which they deride as “Obamacare.”

We remind readers that, like it or not, the health care law is just that — the law. The time for trying to prevent it has passed. In fact, Americans were allowed to start signing up for health insurance under the law’s new exchanges at the exact same time as the government shut down Tuesday morning. For the Republican extremists to continue opposing the law at this stage is like gulping birth control pills while a baby’s head is crowning.

Since some Republicans have apparently forgotten how a democracy is supposed to work, let’s do a bit of review.

Opponents of the law had their first chance to stop it on Dec. 24, 2009, when it was voted upon by the Senate. They lost by a tally of 60 votes to 39 votes.

Their next chance came in the House of Representatives on March 21, 2010, when they lost again, this time by a vote of 219-212.

President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law on March 23, 2010.

The ACA opponents’ next move was to challenge the law in the courts, but they were stymied there, too. On June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of most of the ACA.

Yet here we are, 1,289 days since the legislation was signed into law, and the extremist, tea-party wing of the Republican Party is still fighting the law as though the Senate vote, the House vote, the president’s signature and the Supreme Court ruling never happened.

We have our own concerns about the ACA. We’ve heard that it could hike costs for companies, raise overall health spending and hurt the economy with taxes implemented to fund it. We’ve also heard about its good points, including its potential to bring millions of uninsured people into the ranks of the insured, and its prohibition against denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Whatever the truth and consequences of the law, it is the law, and that is that. The game was played fairly, and it is over. One side lost. It’s not right for the losing team to stand stubbornly on the field and demand the game be replayed.

If Republicans want to repeal the ACA, they should do what the Democrats did to pass it: Get enough senators and representatives elected to gain majorities in both houses of Congress, win the presidential election, and then pass their own legislative agenda.

That’s how the system is supposed to work. Former vice president Al Gore has described what the Republican extremists are doing as “political terrorism,” and we agree. It’s the kind of thing that would be expected to happen in a thirdworld country, where there’s no respect for the rule of law or the will of the democratically elected majority. It’s not supposed to happen in the United States of America.

Of course, not all Republicans are to blame. There are some more moderate voices within the party who oppose what the extremists are doing. And everyone who’s held a federally elected office, Republican or Democrat, in the past few years shares some of the blame for the shutdown, because Congress has not passed a budget since 2009. It’s because of that lack of a budget that so-called “continuing resolutions” are needed to temporarily fund the government and keep it operating, and it’s the latest of those continuing resolutions that the extremist Republicans in the House are refusing to pass until they extract concessions from Obama and the rest of the Democrats regarding the health-care law. If Congress adopted a budget every year like all other fiscally responsible organizations do, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

We therefore call upon all voters of the Unites States to demand accountability and responsibility from their elected members of Congress, to throw out those holding the government hostage to their own demands, and to elect more moderate men and women who can, at the very least, pass a budget and keep our government from driving off a cliff.