In a editorial that reeks of panic and desperation, the Wall Street Journal is warning House Republicans that a government shutdown could enrage voters to the point where they give Democrats back control of the House.
The defunders sketch out an alternative scenario in which Mr. Obama is blamed, and they say we can’t know unless Republicans try. But even they admit privately that they really won’t succeed in defunding ObamaCare. The best case seems to be that if all Republicans show resolve they’ll win over the public in a shutdown, and Democrats will eventually surrender, well, something.
If this works it would be the first time. The evidence going back to the Newt Gingrich Congress is that no party can govern from the House, and the Republican Party can’t abide the outcry when flights are delayed, national parks close and direct deposits for military spouses stop. Sooner or later the GOP breaks.
This all-or-nothing posture also usually results in worse policy. The most recent example was the failure of Mr. Boehner’s fiscal cliff “Plan B” in December 2012, which was the best the GOP could do because Mr. Obama had the whip hand of automatic tax increases. The fallback deal that was sealed in the Senate raised taxes by more and is now complicating the prospects for tax reform.
The backbenchers are heading into another box canyon now. Mr. Boehner is undermined because the other side knows he lacks 218 GOP votes, which empowers House and Senate Democrats. They want to reverse the modest spending discipline of the sequester, and if the House GOP can’t hold together on the CR they will succeed. The only chance of any entitlement reform worth the name is if Mr. Boehner can hold his majority and negotiate from strength.
The backbenchers might even look at the polls showing that the public is now tilting toward Republicans on issues including the economy, ensuring a strong national defense and even health care. Some Republicans think they are sure to hold the House in 2014 no matter what happens because of gerrymandering, but even those levees won’t hold if there’s a wave of revulsion against the GOP. Marginal seats still matter for controlling Congress. The kamikazes could end up ensuring the return of all-Democratic rule.
Beneath the typical misinformation and Republican talking points, the Wall Street Journal editors were desperately trying to stop House Republicans from completing their political suicide mission.
The WSJ was correct. The strategy that House Republicans are trying has never worked. President Obama is not going to back down, and a government shutdown that prevents the military and senior citizens from being paid will flip quite a few marginal districts House controlled districts into the Democratic column. There are 49 battleground seats that Republicans currently control. If House Republicans shutdown the government, many of those seats will be in jeopardy.
Republican House incumbents who are counting on the combination of gerrymandering and Citizens United dark money to keep them in office might be in for a huge surprise, because the public outrage over a government shutdown would create a climate where Democratic challengers could run on making sure that the troops get paid and Social Security checks get sent out. No amount of secret Koch dollars can defeat pocketbook issues.
The majority of Americans have long blamed congressional Republicans for the dysfunction in Washington. A Republican led government shutdown would push that blame over the edge. Fifty seven percent of the American people don’t support the Republican plan to defund Obamacare.
If Republicans shutdown the government, they will lose and lose badly. The best path to a Democratic House takeover in 2014 is for Republicans to keep doing exactly what they are currently doing.