The American public must reflect on the stakes in the current standoff between the House of Representatives and the rest of our government. To quote New York Times columnist Tom Friedman: “President Obama is not defending health care. He’s defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him.”

The House Republicans initially tried to define the issue as about Obamacare, but quickly raised a laundry list of other issues to try to extort something – anything – in exchange for letting the government function.

They are threatening to force the American government, for the first time in its history, to default on its bills, with likely catastrophic consequences for our and the world’s economies.

If Republican blackmail were to give that party any reward for its tactic, a precedent would be set that would ensure its future use. The rational response to blackmail is always to refuse to pay because you can never buy permanent relief. Payment now always results in more blackmail later.

Republicans, including Maine’s Susan Collins, seem unable to realize that in the future the shoe may be on the other foot. We cannot rely forever on the sense of responsibility of Democrats.

I once engaged in a negotiation of this kind with two teenagers on a New York City street. One teenager held the point of a knife at my throat. The negotiation ended with my handing over all my money and the teenager not slitting my throat. In that case, the value of my intact throat exceeded the value of the small amount of money I carried.

In the present case, the value of the integrity of our American institutions exceeds all other considerations. We must not reward extortion. I hope that the negotiation this time does not end with a throat-slitting.

Meredith N. Springer

Scarborough

Bob Tanner’s letter of Oct. 5 (“House is just carrying out people’s will on Obamacare”) reflects misunderstanding of various provisions of the U.S. Constitution:

First, Mr. Tanner avers that “the president does not represent the people – he was elected by the Electoral College.” In fact, the votes of electors reflect the popular votes of their given states.

Second, Mr. Tanner writes: “The Senate represents the states.” A century ago, we adopted the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which provides for the direct (i.e., popular) election of senators. (Previously, senators had been chosen by their states’ Legislatures.) Simply put, the president is chosen by voters and senators are chosen by voters, as are members of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Tanner goes on to say: “The House represents the people, and if a majority of the people don’t want Obamacare, so be it.” Exhaustive polling has indicated repeatedly that a substantial majority of the American people do, in fact, want Obamacare, and the recent clamor to sign up for it substantiates those polls.

A question for Mr. Tanner: Why is America the only industrialized nation on earth without a national health plan?

Ensuing suggestion for Mr. Tanner: The Affordable Health Care Act has been law for three years, but, in accordance with its own provisions, has yet to be fully implemented.

Let the law attain full implementation, then allow Congress to amend, refine, adapt it to iron out the inevitable flaws and shortcomings. Or perhaps even repeal it, if that turns out to be the true will of the people – this is, after all, a representative democracy.

Whatever, I promise him the sky won’t fall in and he won’t be deprived of his favorite tea party flavor.

Alexander Severance

Brunswick

News media, including the Press Herald, continue to falsely portray the budget battle in Washington as equally the fault of the Republicans and Democrats, with neither willing to negotiate.

Sadly, the Republicans refuse to accept that they lost on Obamacare. It’s a law of the land, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, reinforced by the president’s re-election. Yet the Republicans are willing to drive us over the twin cliffs of government shutdown and default in their attempt to get rid of Obamacare.

The Democrats are fortunately still at the wheel, but the Republicans are pointing a gun at their heads, saying, “Drive over the cliff or I will shoot you.”

How can any rational journalist report this as a rational conversation?

Chalmers “Chop” Hardenbergh

Freeport

A recent letter (Shawn Moran, “Pride keeping Democrats on board with Obamacare,” Oct. 3) repeats the falsehood that “the federal government has proved repeatedly that it cannot run anything efficiently.”

This claim ignores Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all government programs. It dismisses the wonderful national parks and monuments, which are now being degraded through absurd budget cuts by those intent on turning the lie into their own version of truth.

It also conveniently forgets that it was federal government controls that kept the banks from destroying our economy; that is, until the so-called “free marketers” eliminated the government regulations and our economy was nearly destroyed by the greed, corruption and inefficiency of the “private” sector.

No system is perfect, public or private, and there are certainly bugs to be worked out as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act goes forward. However, 30 self-appointed guardians of their own perverse view of the United States should not be allowed to hold up a duly passed law by shutting down the entire government.

We must not submit to extortion and bullying. And we should not believe the lies told about government just because they are oft repeated.

Donald J. Rudalevige

Cape Elizabeth

Letter writer Bob Tanner (Oct. 5), who believes the House is just carrying out the people’s will on Obamacare, really ought to get his majorities straight.

Unlike most recent presidents, President Obama received a majority of the people’s votes – in an election where Obamacare was a big issue.

Senators representing states with an overwhelming percentage of the national population voted for Obamacare and this year’s “clean” continuing-spending resolution. As for the House, Democratic candidates in 2012 received about 1.5 million more votes in total than the Republican ones.

Moreover, most observers believe that, absent the Republican speaker’s powers to set the agenda and punish discharge-petition signatories, a clean spending resolution would pass the House.

As for the people’s views, most polls show that a majority approves of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but that when it’s called by its nickname, people disapprove – and Jimmy Kimmel has had the last word on that.

Gary Caplan

Yarmouth