Shut Down Reflections

Why Now? 

Never mind that “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act [ACA], passed in early 2010) has been approved by the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court. Or that it was carefully  



While the “Tea Party” faction of the Republican Party stands in the noisy, high-profile, media-favored vanguard of the shut-down, thanks in part to the antics of Ted “Stand Your Ground” Cruz, it is important to understand that this is not just a “Tea Party” operation by any stretch. As the New York Times editors noted three days ago:

.        It wasn’t just a few Tea Party hotheads who drove the United States government to the brink of shutting downEarly Sunday morning,  would prevent 11 million uninsured people from getting coverage in 2014 and raise premiums for those buying coverage in the individual insurance market…Repealing the tax on medical devices, supported by all House Republicans, would add $30 billion to the deficit over 10 years and reduce the revenues needed to pay for coverage for low-income people.” (NYT, “The House Rushes to a Shutdown,” September 29, 2013)


One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shutdown the government to refight the results of an election.” 

150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>the current Congressional Tea Party Caucus consists of just 45 or so House members (and a handful in the Senate) – far short of the numbers required to shut down the government.

What Were They Thinking? 

Why has the Republican leadership courted significant political blowback – the G.O.P. paid dearly for its shutdowns of the federal government in the mid-1990s – this fall? While I am not privy to the inner councils of top Republican strategists, it seems likely to me that two key factors figured prominently in their shut-down calculations. The first factor is the significant amount of frothing, crypto-fascistic paranoia they have created among their hard-core FOX News/talk radio base concerning “Marxist Obamacare” and more generally about government spending and “big government.” After all the dread, distortion, and rage they have cultivated about the “socialist” health reform, the “radical” Obama, public expenditure, and the “overreaching” federal government, they probably felt that they had little choice but to “stand our ground” by linking the C.R. to the demand for Obama’s destruction or else face “Tea Party” humiliation in future Republican primaries. 

( line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>The second factor is the overall unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act. In CNN/ORC International polls over the last three years, Obama’s “signature liberal legislation” has been opposed by 59% (March 2010), 56% (August 2010), 59% (March 2011), 54% (May 2013) and now 57% (September 27-29, 2013) of Americans. It is currently supposed by just a bit more than a third (by 38%) of the U.S. populace. (See CNN poll results at http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2013/images/09/30/rel10a.pdf). 

Democrats Hardly Blameless 

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>Still, Obama and the Democrats bear no small responsibility for the unpopularity of their health reform. 150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>

Republicans’ Fault for a Bad Thing 

The Real Test: October 17th 

10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>A government shutdown looks benign compared with the possibility that Congress might refuse to raise the debt ceiling. First of all, hitting the ceiling would force a  0in;line-height:150%”>
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) is the author of many books, including Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Paradigm, 2008), Crashing the Tea Party (co-authored with Anthony DiMaggio, 2011), and They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, forthcoming in January 2014).

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