This time, the fight that matters is within the Republican party, and that fight is over whether compromise itself is legitimate. Outsiders to this struggle -- the president and his administration, Democratic legislators as a group, voters or "opinion leaders" outside the generally safe districts that elected the new House majority -- have essentially no leverage over the outcome. I can't recall any situation like this in my own experience, and the only even-approximate historic parallel (with obvious differences) is the inability of Northern/free-state opinion to affect the debate within the slave-state South from the 1840s onward. Nor is there a conceivable "compromise" the Democrats could offer that would placate the other side.
He's not alone in this assessment. David Karpf wrote this headline over at Huffington Post:
If this shutdown was happening in 2011, then we would have a direct analogy to the 1995 shutdown. Democrats win presidential election --> Republicans win midterm election in a landslide --> two parties battle hard and come to a complete standstill. But what is happening right now is far more bizarre. President Obama was just reelected. Democrats gained seats in the House and the Senate. Democrats even received 1.36 million more votes in the House, but partisan gerrymandering ensured an enduring Republican House majority. The Republicans lost the last election while campaigning on the repeal of Obamacare. Now they've decided to shut the entire government down unless Obamacare is hamstrung, regardless.
They are both right. Which is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote a letter to John Boehner yesterday. The opening paragraph summed it up for me:
I hated the Iraq War. I think I hated it as much as you hate the Affordable Care Act. Even though I voted in 2002 to give President Bush the authority to confront Saddam Hussein, I became appalled at how that authority was used - without clear objectives, a coherent strategy, or significant international support. There were many gut-wrenching nights when I struggled over what I needed to do to end the carnage. In those days, when President Bush was Commander In Chief, I could have taken the steps that you are taking now to block Government funding in order to gain leverage to end the war. I faced a lot of pressure from my own base to take that action. But I did not do that. I felt that it would have been devastating to America. Therefore, the Government was funded.
President Obama summarized it best:
“One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shutdown the government to re-fight the results of an election. You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job."
Actually they do. But we don't have to let them get away with it by calling it gridlock - because it really isn't.
Ian McCullough, Politics isn't sport... although I have been known to yell at election returns like others yell at the SuperBowl.Politics isn't sport... although I have been known to yell at election returns like others yell at the SuperBowl.