Always a sucker for adorable animal tales, I was alarmed by the headline in a Gotham-based publication: 100 'Sex-Crazed' Turtles Close Down JFK Airport Runway.
And then the truth about Minnesota's own shutdown hit me. Glenn Gruenhagen is right about the undisciplined sex drive being the most destructive force in the world, though he's wrong to restrict his fear to that possessed by just one gender. Consider, for instance, the role of the Republican social agenda in shutting down the State of Minnesota.
Though elected on promises of jobs, jobs, jobs, and cutting government spending, the new majorities in the senate and the house simply could not control their collective obsession with sex. Rather than hammer out a budget in May, they wasted time fetishizing marriage, passing a bill to chisel inequality into the state constitution, first in the Senate, then--on the final weekend before adjournment--in the House, where four Republicans had the good sense to be rational. (For the headline, I take the number of Republicans in both chambers who voted for the marriage amendment and who supported the no-compromise stance).
The other 105 Republicans couldn't stop thinking, or at least listening to those who spend a lot of time thinking, about dudes kissing. And marrying. And-What-That -Might-Do-To-The-Children.
Meanwhile, their resolve hardened about no compromise on keeping the state running, since somewhere, a millionaire might have to pay higher taxes, a thought that terrifies many in today's Republican party even more than the notion of butt sex.
Ditto with bringing abortion restrictions to the table. Though it made many uncomfortable, Gruenhagen put his finger more or less on the money of what troubled the caucuses. Someone, somewhere, was having some perverted fun, and one could blot out those thoughts by appealing to the consequences.
And then there was the phantom terror over clones, which would have shut down promising stem cell research at the University of Minnesota.
And so in this week's sweltering heat, could the Republican caucuses focus on constructing a working budget to fund the state's government?
Of course not.
Policy as a bargaining chip
Talks may have also broken down because an earlier GOP offer asked Dayton to accept controversial policy positions the Republicans pushed for this year, including photo ID requirements at the polls and abortion restrictions. An offer sheet provided to the Star Tribune said the policy adoptions were in exchange for "new revenue in a compromise offer."
Briana Bierschbach at PIM has more in Paper Trail: GOP policy-laden offer to Gov. Dayton:
The document, dated June 29 at 8 p.m., spells out terms of a compromise from the GOP majorities. New revenue in a deal would have been contingent on a special session Thursday to pass most of the budget bills and continue health and human services payments at current levels until a final bill could be drafted and passed by July 8, the document reads.
It also calls for various policy provisions to be included in the budget bills, including collective bargaining reforms and mandate relief in the education bill, cloning language and tuition caps in the higher education bill, a ban on taxpayer funds for abortions in the health and human services bill and photo identification at the polls in the state government budget bill. . . .
Mnindy's Andy Birkey has more in GOP pressed for abortion, stem cell research bans during budget negotiations.
So demands on policy-- including non-budget policy items rooted in an obsession with sex--trumped even keeping the lights on and the parks open this Independence Day weekend. When the end-of-session time devoted to committing the entire state engaged in a months-long battle over amending its constitution to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens is figured in, yes, sex-crazed Republicans closed down Minnesota.
Perhaps, like turtles, they simply can't help heeding the call of the reptilian brain centers nestled deep in their gray matter.
The state's reaction? The Strib reports that Let's shut down the politicians, angry citizens cry.
Get serious, get rational and get a budget passed.
Update: For a more serious and measured look at the question, check out the always thorough Andy Birkey's Did abortion politics derail budget talks, lead to shutdown? at the Minnesota Independent.
Photo: Don't let that reptile brain dictate your budget.