I admit that I was hesitant about a shutdown. The House was safely in Republican hands – and a shutdown could be a game changer in 2014. However, it’s probably just the last vestiges of my more moderate leanings gasping for air. I’ve been killing those dispositions off rapidly over the past two years. Theoretically, with government shut down, these politicians can’t waste our money, or do anything that will inevitably chip away at our civil rights and liberties. That’s a good thing. But what about blowback?
Of course, more Americans blame Republicans than Obama and the Democrats – at the moment – but not by much. With the vindictive closures of privately-funded parks, Obama has given conservatives yet another avenue to embarrass him. Is he really barring World War II vets from paying their respects at their memorial? Are Park Police really going to put octogenarians in wheelchairs under arrest? If there’s one bad piece of media that could come from this shutdown, it’s veterans being hauled away in handcuffs. Yet, Allahpundit at Hot Air had a rather interesting post about the Clinton shutdown – and how the backlash so feared by moderates isn’t “as bad as you think.”
Well, for starters, the approval ratings for Clinton and then-Speaker Gingrich returned to pre-shutdown levels rather quickly.
Second, Allahpundit aptly noted that:
Even if you think the 1995 shutdown was a major loss for the GOP, there are sound reasons to think this time might be different. A sluggish economy, a less divisive Republican speaker in Boehner, and a widely disliked law in ObamaCare — all of those factors will hopefully conspire to blunt whatever advantage Democrats think they’re getting from the lights going out.
He used Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics to detail the rest of this point.
Democrats didn’t actually use the shutdown itself as their main line of attack on Republicans. It was part of it, but the real attacks came over the Republicans’ motivation for the shutdown. Because of the expansive nature of the GOP’s cuts, the Democrats were able to focus on several unpopular portions of the GOP budget: the so-called M2E2 strategy. They commenced a mantra-like repetition of their opposition to Republican attempts to gut “Medicare, Medicaid, Education and the Environment” in favor of a “risky tax scheme” that benefitted the rich.
In other words, in evaluating 1996 as an illustration of what will happen to the GOP today, we probably have to separate the tactic of a shutdown from the substance of what motivates it. And today, the GOP is focused on defunding Obamacare, a law that isn’t particularly popular. For the analogy to 1995-96 to really stick, the GOP will probably have had to try something along the lines of shutting down government to implement the Paul Ryan balance-budget plan.
While public opinion might be against the shutdown tactic, there probably won’t be the same level of outrage against the underlying policy motivation, which is what 1995-96 was mostly about. If Obamacare turns out to be the train wreck some conservatives predict (I have no clue whether it will or won’t), the tactic itself might be viewed as less of a negative.
Moreover, even if there was a backlash, most Republicans are running in considerably safe districts. Yes, there could be a few casualties, but nothing catastrophic. As Pundit noted:
[D]espite the legend of shutdown-driven GOP losses in the 1996 elections, it’s an open question whether the shutdown had much to do with that. Harry Enten attacked that conventional wisdom last week by analyzing polling during and after the 1995 shutdown. As it turns out, Democrats did about as well in the 1996 elections as you would have expected given the state of the economy at the time.
Also, there’s the little fact that 83% of government is still being funded. Byron York at the Washington Examiner wrote on October 5 that:
Based on estimates drawn from CBO and OMB data, 83 percent of government operations will continue. This figure assumes that the government pays amounts due on appropriations obligated before the shutdown ($512 billion), spends $225 billion on exempted military and civilian personnel, pays entitlement benefits for those found eligible before the shutdown (about $2 trillion), and pays interest costs when due ($237 billion). This is about 83 percent of projected 2014 spending of $3.6 trillion.”
Hey, government union representatives are surreptitiously going back to work, so this little shutdown can’t be that bad. After all, if you look at the history of government shutdowns, this one seems to be the most necessary.
We’ve had shutdowns over abortion, nuclear missiles, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, missed deadlines for passing new spending bills, the Fairness Doctrine, and insufficient amounts of deficit reduction. Granted, fighting over the sanctity if life isn’t pointless, but all of these reasons seem rather silly compared to the grossly unconstitutional – and highly dysfunctional – Affordable Care Act. If anything, shutting down government over this massive federal power grab is not just right, it’s required.
I still hold the opinion that Sen. Ted Cruz, who I want to see as our next president, was wrong with the defund approach to Obamacare. If Republicans pushed delay from the start, we could’ve mustered enough Democratic votes to make this look like an exclusive Obama shutdown. Heck, even Obama agreed to delaying parts of his own law – and Cruz has joined the delay coalition. No, that doesn’t make him a RINO. In the end, both approaches end with the complete destruction of Obamacare
Hence, why Reid – and the Democratic leadership – are digging in against delaying the individual mandate, even though it received bipartisan support last July – with twenty-two House Democrats supporting the measure.
They know delay could unravel the whole law, which us why they insist on attaching it to everything. As conservative commentator Dana Loesch aptly noted, Democrats could’ve gone forward with two separate bills to fund Obamacare and the government, but the law’s miserable approval ratings made that impossible.
Democrats are bloated with illusory notions that they have the upper hand in this fight. In fact, Jack Kelly, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, mentioned in Real Clear Politics on October 6 that they might have the most to lose. Even if they manage to win the shutdown, they lose the war.
By margins of 2 to 1 or greater, Americans oppose shutting down the government to defund Obamacare, three polls last week indicated. But they support, 55-35, GOP efforts to delay it, according to a poll this week.
Labor unions and other Democratic-leaners with buyer’s remorse are not ready (yet) to give up on Obamacare completely, but they demand big changes. Since the Obamacare rollout has made clear that it is not ready for prime time, their numbers will increase.
Democrats fear any delay would “open the door to devastating consequences for the law,” wrote Ben Terris of the National Journal.
Delay the individual mandate, and the whole thing could fall apart, according to Linda Blumberg of the Urban Institute.
It would be embarrassing for them to climb down now, but Democrats may be worse off if they “win.”
“If (Republicans) manage to extract a concession from Senate Democrats in exchange for voting to approve a continuing resolution to fund the government’s operations, then they’ve won,” wrote Ira Stoll in the New York Sun.
If Republicans fold, they also win, because then “Americans will actually get a chance to see for themselves what a train wreck Obamacare is,” Mr. Stoll argued.
Americans blame Republicans more for the “shutdown,” polls indicate, but by smaller margins than in the past. Most of the few who will suffer real pain typically vote Democratic. Now that Republicans have united on delaying Obamacare — which is popular, and after all the glitches we’ve seen during the rollout, prudent — all the rouge and lipstick the news media applies can only partially conceal that it’s Democrats who are being intransigent.
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