US shutdown: Washington's truly dangerous cliffhanger

Cloudy skies shroud the Capitol in Washington, Monday morning, Oct. 14, 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption A deal is likely to have a rough time in the Senate and the House

Watching Washington politics, and even worse enjoying watching it, is like being addicted to some dreadful soap.

You know it has few redeeming merits beyond the entertainment value of witnessing humanity at its worst. The characters fling themselves from one gratuitous hysterical crisis to the next, barely pausing to reflect on the folly of their ways. No remorse, is one of the rules.

Some will blame the Tea Party, some the president, others the system. There'll be plenty of time to reflect on whose fault it is over the next few days, and I will certainly do so.

But for now it seems likely that the latest plot line of DC dramas may be nearing a conclusion.

The leaders of the Republicans and Democrats seem to have almost struck a deal.

It would raise the debt ceiling and reopen the Government until the new year. Before Christmas there would be a big conference on the budget.

Over the edge

There may be a few, very minor, changes to Obamacare.

The leaders of the two parties wouldn't agree to something they didn't think they could sell. The president has said little, but one can assume he approves of what is on the table.

But that doesn't mean it will have an easy passage in the Senate. The House is likely to be even rougher.

They are more than capable of squeezing another cliffhanger or two out of it. They could miscalculate and go over the edge into the unknown by mistake.

But if they don't and a deal is done, some will celebrate this as American democracy doing its job - raw and messy but vibrant, forcing compromise where there was none to be had. Perhaps.

The American public don't seem that impressed. The world scratches its head in bewilderment.

But it has consequences that go beyond the United States. Lurching from crisis imperils the world's economy on an annual basis.

That's bad enough. But it gives democracy itself a bad name, making it look like a system that is not fit for purpose in a modern world. That is truly dangerous.