Yes, my friends, you ARE threatening to shut down the government

Written by . Posted in 2014 Campaigns, 2016 Campaigns, Featured

Published on August 22, 2013

captureFrom Byron York:

A new poll done for Republican members of Congress has found huge public opposition, and solid opposition among Republicans, to the idea of shutting down the government over the issue of funding Obamacare….

Overall, 71 percent of those surveyed opposed a shutdown, while 23 percent favored a shutdown. Among Republicans, 53 percent opposed, versus 37 percent who favored….

Winston also did a generic ballot test. Among people who say at this point that they plan to vote for the Republican candidate in 2014 — regardless of who it is — 51 percent said they opposed a shutdown, while 40 percent favored it.

Now, as Byron anticipated, some conservatives have reacted by suggesting the question is unfair. It’s a point worth exploring. To give one prominent example of someone conservatives listen to:


So here’s my problem with this: If you think it through, then yes, everyone involved in this is indeed proposing to shut down the government. Here’s why.

If you think you can get the Democratic Senate to pass (and Obama to sign) a bill that funds the government while defunding Obama’s absolute top priority without first going through a prolonged government shutdown — and we’re talking weeks or months here, not days — then you’re just not being serious. This has no chance of success unless you shut the government down for a very long time.

The guy already lost the House so that he could get Obamacare — do you really think he’s going to cry uncle one week into a few embassy closures? Obama cries uncle only when tens of thousands of government employees start having their homes foreclosed because they’re not being paid.

It’s one thing to think you can gain some ground in a shutdown-showdown by haggling over levels of spending or even forcing a delay to the individual mandate or something like that. But this isn’t going to happen here, and that’s probably why there won’t be nearly enough votes to carry out this threat.

If Republicans “don’t blink,” as Ted Cruz has put it, that means the government gets shut down. Take that to the bank. Whom will that hurt? Conservatives will shoulder all of the blame. As this poll suggests, it’s going to displease quite a few voters, including those who already plan to vote for Republicans in the next election and those who describe themeselves as “somewhat conservative.” It’s fairly popular with the nine percent of the electorate that describes itself as “very conservative.” These are, of course, the people who might consider going online to give money to the conservative groups that are pushing this and creating unrealistic expectations among the base that will end in disillusionment.

If there were actual benefits to government shutdowns, then at least we could weigh that against the potential political and electoral damage. But there aren’t any benefits, as we know from experience. Just as “shutdowns” don’t actually shut down most of the government, they also don’t help limit government. (For example, furloughed employees inevitably end up getting back-pay.) This isn’t sequestration, in which some categories of spending are actually cut, nor is it a debt-ceiling fight, in which pressure builds slowly on the administration. It’s different. Aside from the unrealistic goal, there is no accompanying benefit to carrying out this plan.

The defund-or-shutdown effort — and that’s what it is — represents a threat, something along the lines of: “Do what I say, or I’ll shoot myself in the leg.” I’m all for making threats, using leverage, and risking elections to get good governance, but this is not an effective tactic, because it’s in the other person’s interest to let you shoot yourself. Obama would welcome a shutdown — why should he come to the table to stop Republicans from wounding themselves for nothing?

The last chance to stop Obamacare from starting came in November 2012. Now it’s going to go into effect, and it’s going to fail, and people are going to be upset. This shutdown tactic won’t stop Obamacare, but it might cost Republicans the House, a Senate majority, and any chance of repealing or scaling back the law in the future. In short, if you want to give Democrats the opportunity to replace Obamacare with a single-payer system after it falls apart, then this government shutdown-showdown is a good way to do it.

This is probably a moot point, because there won’t be enough votes to shut down the government. But it is maddening to see conservatives turn a self-defeating tactic into an ideological litmus test.