Shutdown, Stage Three

In response to The President Learned the Wrong Lesson from 2011:

These crises always seem to go through an initial stage of general annoyance – the man on the street growls, “Why can’t these guys just get together and make things work?” – which Democrats believe the media can turn nearly 100 percent against Republicans.  This is partly a gamble on the generally higher approval ratings that even an unpopular President enjoys over Congress.

Stage Two sees more people paying attention to what is actually said and done, with a time lag of a day or two for conventional wisdom to digest gaffes.  That’s where we are now, and it’s not going well at all for Democrats.  Never underestimate the GOP ability to blow an advantage, but I’ve never seen the Dems handle anything as badly as they’ve bungled the shutdown.  Maybe it’s because of the more robust alternative media available today, as opposed to what Clinton and his Big Media swooners faced in 1995.  It’s fun watching the MSM try to conceal a monster gaffe that actually involved one of their people, Dana Bash of CNN.  Don’t watch our coverage of what Harry Reid said to our own reporter, and pay no attention to how he insulted her in terms we would instantly interpret as career-ending misogyny from any Republican!

But then we get to Stage Three, the endgame, and the action gets harder to predict.  Democrats are palpably terrified that people will actually embrace the shutdown, or at least decide it’s manageable while a reasonable solution is worked out.  (I heartily encourage everyone to embrace it – it’s the closest we’ve come to reining in irresponsible spending in decades.)  Republicans are nervous that a legislative exit strategy will prove difficult to find.  

There could be a GOP stampede for even a tiny concession from Democrats – say, the Vitter Amendment scotching those special ruling-class ObamaCare subsidies.  That could be a short-term political win for the GOP, but it would be very minor.  The Left isn’t going to abandon Obama en masse over something like that.  The media’s not going to spend a lot of time dwelling on how the Iron King was eventually forced to compromise.  There would be a few days of political theater… and we end up with a crappy government health-care system and out-of-control spending, with slightly less convenience for the big shots and their staffers.  That’s not really going to change anything.  Contrary to their hyperbolic rhetoric about a “brain drain” due to the health-care disaster they voted in without reading, the Democrats won’t turn savagely against ObamaCare just because it lightens their pockets a bit.  And given what Obama has done to the private sector, there won’t be many staffers eagerly fleeing to it.

I’m more curious than ever about how a longer-term shutdown would play out.  Is the conventional wisdom about mounting public anger wrong?  If Obama’s Shutdown Theater is closed out of town, thanks to a combination of public anger and Congressional oversight, will the public increasingly ask, “Why were we paying for all this non-essential stuff anyway?  And why is one of our major political parties so bloody determined to hurt us so they can gain negotiating leverage?”


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