Monday, October 07, 2013

How the shutdown ends

By Frank Moraes

Following up on my afterword in the last article, Matt Yglesias has an interesting (very short) article about how the government shutdown will resolve itself. He is riffing on a tweet by the front man for everything House Republican, the National Review's Robert Costa, "The theater of the standoff is integral to House GOP unity; unless you go to 11th chaotic hour, many on right will yell, 'Ya caved!'" I'm sure that's important in the thinking of the House Republicans, but I think it's silly. The base is going to say "Ya caved!" regardless of when it happens. People like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have primed the base to think that all the Republicans have to do is hold out long enough (Four months? Two years? Whatever it takes!) and they will win.

I think it is really strange. The Republicans have been absolutely fantastic at managing expectations outside the party. Everyone expects that they will do nothing or at least nothing good. So when they manage to approve pay for furloughed federal workers, there is dancing in the streets. But when it comes to managing expectations inside the party, the Republicans are hopeless. I don't think there is any secret to why it is: Fox News and the radio ranters are what define the thinking of the base. But after all this time, I would think the party would have taken control.


Yglesias and Costa both seem to think that the Republicans will "cave." I don't see it like that. The Republicans will demand something to save face. The most obvious is the repeal of the medical device tax. I think it is a very good tax. The government is pushing lots of new business to these companies, the least they can do is pay a bit (2.5%) back. But the Democrats might go for it because they are also corrupt and they take money from these same companies.

I hope it doesn't work out this way. The best situation would be that Boehner allows a vote in exchange for "negotiations." That would probably work well with the base because the Republicans have been saying for week that they are the reasonable ones; all they want is to negotiate. The facts say quite the opposite, but that doesn't much matter to the base who only get their news from the right wing echo chamber. The other possibility is that the Republicans could listen to Ramesh Ponnuru who has been trying to remind the Republicans if they get something they want, they must give the Democrats something in return. His idea is a one year delay of the individual mandate for a one year elimination of the Sequester. (That's a typical conservative gambit itself: give us what we want and we'll give you something we both want. But it's a start.)

Overall, it is good news. The government will be back up and running in a week and a half. The Debt Ceiling will be out of the way for another year. Federal workers will get paid. And we can get back on to our usual dysfunction. The Republicans will probably come away from the whole experience with a bad taste in their mouths, but they won't have lost anything. Maybe it will make other such hostage taking less likely. Maybe. But the main thing is that we have to beat the Republicans at the polls. That's the only way they will start acting like a normal political party.


(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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