Thanks to a small minority of ideological fanatics, the United States Congress has hijacked the government and driven it off a cliff.

Europeans, gazing in horror across the pond, are wondering who’s steering the ship of state and whether it will fetch up on a reef like the Costa Concordia, taking the global economy down with it.

Government by minority decree is anti-democratic, counter-productive and highly dangerous. Even Republican President William McKinley, while still a member of Congress, condemned it. “The tyranny of the minority is infinitely more odious and intolerable and more to be feared than that of the majority,” he warned. “… they (the minority) will either rule or ruin, although they are in the minority.”

The will to ruin seems to be the order of the day. We think our own Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, summed up the situation pretty well in a statement released earlier this week.

“There is no reason for us to be in this situation. Our government is closed because 40 or so radical Tea Party Republicans refuse to vote for any funding bill that doesn’t delay or defund the Affordable Care Act. This is a fight they’ve lost nearly 50 times in Congress, in a national election, and in the United States Supreme Court. Keeping the government shut down because Democrats want to make sure people can buy affordable health insurance is a thoughtless disregard for responsible governance and the people we serve.

“Democrats have compromised. I agreed to support a funding measure that included $72 billion in annualized, across-the-board spending cuts to keep the government open. The Senate passed this legislation multiple times before the government closed, but this wasn’t enough for the Tea Party wing of the House Majority …

“Their refusal to compromise is hurting our economy and country. It’s putting 800,000 federal employees out of work and delaying paychecks for 2 million more, cutting off food-safety operations and infectious disease surveillance, stopping important medical research … and costing the tax payers $150 million a day.

“Now the House Majority is trying to pass piecemeal funding measures to fund things like our national parks and the Department of Veterans Affairs. These bills are nothing more than cynical political ploys designed to lessen the outrage the House Majority is facing for shutting down the government.

“The right thing to do for our nation would be to pass the Senate’s compromise government funding legislation that protects health care reform and reduces spending. I stand ready to support such a bill ... and many responsible members of the Republican Party in the House stand ready to pass such a bill. If it was put on the floor of the House today it would be passed and our government would be open tomorrow.

“It’s important for everyone in our nation that the institution of representative government works. Right now this important institution is being held hostage by a small fraction of extremists in the House Majority who are obsessed with sabotaging health care reform.”

This from a fiscally-conservative, Blue Dog Democrat, pretty much says it all. We couldn’t agree more.