Shutting Down The Circus

I don’t know how many of you recall the Disney animated film “Dumbo,” but there is a scene that I think is really fitting. Dumbo, the little elephant with the big ears, is written into a brand new act that involves all the grown elephants balancing on a ball (how that ball held their weight, I’ll never know). Dumbo’s job was to launch himself to the top and be the crown of this pyramid of elephants. However, Dumbo tripped and knocked the whole thing over, causing the big top to come crashing down. Dumbo was shunned by the other elephants for bringing shame upon them.

It’s a great metaphor for how the Republican Leadership talked about and treated [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] during and after the government shutdown.

But, while the big top did come crashing down, it wasn’t on the Republicans. To quote Byron York

But look at what happened. The shutdown so deeply damaged GOP prospects that Republicans exceeded expectations in 2014, winning control of the Senate in spectacular fashion and making unexpected gains in the House. The shutdown was so terrible that some of those headstrong House Republicans who voted to defund Obamcare last year — [mc_name name=’Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001095′ ], [mc_name name=’Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000618′ ], Shelley Moore Capito — are now headed to the U.S. Senate. (Cassidy too, if he wins.)

Often times, I feel York is another of those “Establishment” writers, but in this case, he has a great point. The size and scope of the shutdown in 2013 was big for a Congress only half-controlled by the GOP. After a massive sweep, a smaller, more targeted shutdown of the federal offices that would directly implement Obama’s immigration proposal (you know, the one that has no legal grounds whatsoever). In my attempts to (probably naively) read a deeper, more strategic meaning into [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ]’s “There will be no government shutdown,” statement, which was previously covered by my colleague Leon Wolf, I assumed it could go one of two ways: The first is, like the [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] talking point, the GOP would spin it into “We promised no shutdown, but the Democrats are responsible for it.” The second route would be a limited shutdown, so that you can’t call it a “government” shutdown if most of the government is still up and running.

A targeted shutdown, like York suggests, is easily doable and far more easy to justify. The immigration power grab has no legal standing whatsoever, and you can’t really say shutting down the offices that have jurisdiction over immigration issues would have too much of an effect, given that they haven’t done an observable job in years. Democrats could spin it as Republicans hurting those who are coming to our country legally, but since when have Democrats ever cared about the legal immigrants? They’ve done everything they can to spite them by allowing cheaters to jump past them in line.

York suggests a full government shutdown was impossible to have and maintain with a Senate that only had 45 GOP seats. A full shutdown with a GOP-controlled Senate would force Obama to actually negotiate. A smaller, targeted shutdown is just as good, however, for all the elephants to work together to bring the circus that has been D.C. politics crashing down on the ears of the Democrats who have largely controlled it.