With polls heading south quickly, the publicly is increasingly blaming the Republican party for the federal government shutdown.
The Republicans, in turn, are increasingly blaming Democrats for the shutdown’s effects: everything from World War II vets not being able to visit the WWII memorial to cancer patients at NIH not being able to get their experimental drug trials.
The thing is, the shutdown was the Republicans’ idea. So how can they now blame the effects of their vote on the Democrats?
Well, they don’t really have a choice. Over the past four decades, the GOP has invested heavily in a Frankenstein monster electoral strategy, first with the religious right and then with the Tea Party. Each time, the GOP recognized that there was a new and growing movement of strong but crazy activists, and the party tried to foster the crazy, and harness it.
But as always with monsters of your own creation, the monster eventually kills the village, then goes after your bride.
The only way to appease the extremists – this time, Tea Party extremists – who run the GOP, is to go to the extreme. And the reason the GOP has no choice is the primaries. It’s no secret that the GOP’s religious extremists, and now anti-government anarchists, decided to organize at the local level to exact maximal damage in the electoral process. And they have. The end effect is that Republicans risk not making it through their primaries if they don’t embrace the nuttiest elements of their party.
On a Monday last month, Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, met with some top GOP donors for lunch at Le Cirque on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The donors, a youngish collection of financial industry types and lawyers, had some questions for Walden, a mild-mannered lawmaker from eastern Oregon known for speaking his mind.
Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.
“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”
The bigger problem for the GOP is that the rest of America isn’t the GOP base, they don’t hate government (and gays, and women, and Latinos, and blacks, and Jews, and immigrants), so the whole crazier-than-thou strategy, that’s working oh so well with the party’s base, is debasing the party with everyone else.
Polls have consistently shown that the public, while not exceedingly chipper about the Affordable Care Act (though the public, admittedly, has no idea what’s in health care reform, aka Obamacare), they also don’t want the government shut down over it.
Scott Clement at the Washington Post looks at two new polls, one from CBS and one from Fox (of all places), and both concur – the shutdown is trouble for the GOP. Clement includes a neat chart in his story:
So the GOP has embraced extremists because it can’t win at the local level without them, but the GOP also can’t win at the national level with them? So what do you do? You try to blame the other guy for the mess you created.
We’re seeing an increasing effort by Republican members of Congress who voted for the government shutdown – even those who were the actual architects of the shutdown – to then use the impacts of the shutdown, the harm caused by the shutdown, to blame Democrats for the shutdown itself.
This is rather ironic, as the Republicans were the ones saying all along that government shutdowns, and sequesters, would have no deleterious impact. Fox’s Sean Hannity recently said that he’s not feeling any impact from the shutdown, so it must not be a bad thing after all.
The problem for the GOP is that everyone from World War II vets making their last visit to the memorial in Washington, to cancer patients trying to start new experiment potentially-life-saving drug trials at NIH, are feeling an impact.
So what’s a party beholden to extremists to do? Blame the other guy.
That’s why you had the spectacle of GOP Congressman Randy Neugebauer of Texas berating a National Park Service ranger for manning the gates at the World War II memorial that had been shut down by Neugebauer’s own shutdown. Fortunately for the ranger, and sadly for Neugebauer, the crowd in attendance wasn’t buying what he was selling – one guy in particular defended the ranger and gave Neugebauer an earful. Note in the video, below, how Neugebauer quickly shuffles away when confronted over his hypocrisy.
And now, incredibly, the Republicans are trying to blame Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the fact that children can’t get their cancer drugs at NIH because of the GOP shutdown.
The Republican strategy has been to take any shutdown-related effect that’s bothering the public a bit too much, and then triage it by attempting to pass a spending bill to let it continue without a shutdown. First they tried this with the WWII Memorial, now they’re trying it with the NIH. It’s a cute game. By trying to cordon off every issue the public really cares about, they hope to leave the rest of the government, including Obamacare and every other Democratic program, shut down permanently.
The Democrats, wisely, aren’t falling for the GOP shuffle. And so far, the public isn’t either.