If the Republican Party gets blamed by the public for the 2013 government shutdown, then they have only themselves to blame. But maybe not in the way you may think.
Over the past week, Republicans should have learned two very valuable lessons, which if ignored, will continue to be a detriment to the party. It is hard to assign a priority of importance, but let’s begin with the media coverage.
Everyone knows, unless they are complete simpletons, that the mainstream media is nothing more than a propaganda extension of the Democratic Party. Against all the facts, the Republican Party was painted as “extremists,” “anarchists” and even “terrorists,” who threatened to shutdown the government if they couldn’t satisfy the far-right wing of the party, or as one Democratic Senator put it on MSNBC – the “Teabaggers.” Let’s briefly look at a video, then look at the facts surrounding this debate:
The way in which CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield portrayed the events over the last week is absurd on so many levels. First, as far as how these events played out, Harry Reid flat-out refused to call back the Senate before Monday’s scheduled 2 p.m. ET session. Even prior to the weekend, President Obama was mulling over the idea of calling congressional leaders to the White House for negotiations, which Harry Reid threatened he would not even bother to attend. But if we just looking at the specific issues Reid was so adamant about not compromising on, it is completely backward to blame the GOP.
All of the national polls show House Republicans are merely doing exactly what America wants them to do. A majority of Americans oppose a government shutdown and the vast majority oppose Obamacare. We will talk about how and why the numbers moved on the question of a government shutdown in a moment, but for now, let’s focus on the credibility of the media narrative that holds the Republican Party is extreme.
There is not one credible pundit or analyst who would disagree with the assertion that if put to a national vote today, Obamacare would be defeated in a historic landslide. The latest CNN poll found record high opposition to Obamacare, with 57 percent opposed and just 38 percent favoring the law. That 19 percent gap is the largest CNN has measured. Save for the Quinnipiac poll that found 47 – 45 in opposition, which is clearly an outlier, not one reputable polling company has ever found a majority favors Obamacare. Fact in point, nobody disagrees that if Obamacare were put to a vote on the floor of the Congress today, it would fail in both houses miserably.
How is it the media – and thanks to their efforts, now the public – says it is radical for the House to use its constitutional power of the purse to defund a program America does not want, and never wanted?
Sadly, the truth is even worse than the media making Republicans out to be extremists for opposing a law that Americans hate. The truth, is that Republican leadership is more concerned with their country club memberships than they are about the will of their constituents, or the negative effects the policy they give up the fight on will have on their lives. They are cowards who are both incapable and unwilling to engage in the necessary PR war to expose the media for what they are – an extension of the Democratic National Committee – which leaves conservative pundits and base operatives on the fringe of such allegations, leaving the public with the perception it’s nothing more than some ring-wing conspiracy.
That brings me to the second lesson from this messaging debacle. The first Republican Party president, Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided cannot stand,” but there is always a deep divide between party leadership and the folks. Not in the Democratic Party, where they lock-step march to the far-left with zero concern for blowback. Perhaps that may contribute to how it is they are able to refuse to compromise on their deeply unpopular position and still come out on top of public opinion?
Yet Republican leaders do not grasp this simple concept, instead choosing to regurgitate the same old tired, inaccurate excuses for their cowardice. It so predictable, it’s shameful.
We can’t win this fight. We have been here before in the 1990s, and the press will crucify us. The White House has the bully pulpit and we can’t raise our voices over his microphone. The polls will turn against us and we will lose in the upcoming election.
I have even heard so-called “conservatives” suggest that the GOP adopt the strategy to let Obamacare take effect, and it will be such a disaster that the people will abandon the Democratic Party in 2014. Aside from the disgusting lack of sympathy that view holds for those whose lives will inevitably experience a loss of quality from the policy, it isn’t even accurate.
In 1996, following the 1995 government shutdowns, Americans elected a Republican-controlled Congress back-to-back for the first time since the 1920s. Republican candidates even narrowly won the popular vote for the House. Republicans actually gained a seat in a special election held in a Democratic-leaning district in between government shutdowns in 1995, and narrowly lost a Senate seat in Democratic-leaning Oregon just after the last shutdown of the year, but went on to win an open Senate seat in the same state by a comfortable four point margin in November.
Going into the 1996 elections, Republicans held 236 seats in the House. When the elections were over, they held 228, losing just 8 seats, including one in a Democratic-leaning district held by one of the five Democrats who earlier turned Republican after the Republican Revolution. You can read more numbers analysis if you want here, but the point is that seats lost by the Republican Party after the 1995 government shutdown, did not have much to do with the shutdowns at all. It was the inevitable vulnerability that comes from a landslide election, which is a landscape that no longer exists today, despite what the generic congressional ballot might say.
Historically, the only accurate analogy should be related to the fact that the public did not turn on Republicans in the 1990s until the party abandoned Newt Gingrich, and they did so when he abandoned House conservatives after repeated ear whispering from then-Rep. John Boehner. Boehner was of the mind from the beginning that the politics of a shutdown would be bad for the party. People don’t follow leaders who do not have the courage of their own convictions, and that is what you are again seeing play out.
Last week, as well as this week, polling data showed that the public agreed a government shutdown would hurt the economy. However, last week, 53 percent of Americans were still willing to swallow the pill. But earlier this week, support for a government shutdown had dropped to 45 percent, down from 53 percent early last week when Sen. Cruz began his 21-hour “sorta” filibuster. Data then suggests that the inability of the Republican Party to unite against unpopular policy – whether you agree or disagree with the strategy – has caused many Americans to back the side they see united, and as a consequence coming out on top.
Had Senate Republican leadership showed the same unity in opposing cloture that the Democrats always show defending a deeply unpopular bill, it would have left a very different impression in the minds of the public, not to mention box Harry Reid in a corner. We certainly wouldn’t be here today.
While I have a seemingly endless number of candidates to show as an example, consider this coward – Rep. Peter King R-NY, in the video below:
Who is God’s name wants to follow that? The answer is quite clearly, nobody. And if the Republican Party is blamed for the 2013 government shutdown, then they have only themselves to blame.