Is Shutdown Suicide for Republicans?

Grand Old Party


The government shutdown is largely rally a war over Obamacare, but are Republicans risking political suicide for a chance to cripple a bill that has already had its legality affirmed by a conservative leaning  United States Supreme Court?  A government shutdown will take effect October 1st unless a deal can be reached between Republicans and Democrats.

According to a poll conducted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Republicans are in trouble but the political health of Democrats doesn’t exactly look vibrant either. When asked who’d they blame in the event of a shutdown, 35% of respondents blame Republicans, but 29% blame President Obama, and 12% blame congressional Democrats (24% of respondents don’t know or refused to answer).  It should be noted though, this poll is heavily weighed with Caucasian respondents, 74%.  To what extent this is relevant remains uncertain when whites are a shrinking majority in the United States, but remain the overwhelming majority in the Republican Party.

As the President is the face of the Democratic Party, and the most recognizable leader in the United States, his ability manage public perception will play a tremendous role in who the public blames.  According to a recent poll by CBS news, President Obama’s approval has dropped to 43% with a 49% disapproval, hardly intimidating numbers. In the same poll, Pres. Obama fairs a little better when dealing with domestic issues and the Republican controlled congress specifically, “from about half of Americans,” while 70% say Republicans are not acting in good faith in their negotiations.

The Republican suicide watch in the looming shutdown discussion is more than just a result of shaky poll numbers, it is a response to history. Conventional wisdom holds  that a 1996  Republican lead government shut-down resulted in the re-election of President Bill Clinton. In this election cycle though, the presidency is not what’s on the line.  It’s control of the house and Senate.

Democrats control the Senate.  Republicans control the house. The chances of the Republicans gaining control of the senate are slim, but what does the 1996 election cycle tell us, if anything, about the chances of the house changing hands?  The Democrats must gain 17 seats for control to change hands, but this is easier said than done. Douglas Goodman of Policymic states, “since 1946, the party of the president has lost an average of 24 seats in the House and four seats in the Senate in the mid-term elections. This trend appears likely to continue given that of the 20 Democratic Senate seats being contested, Mitt Romney won seven of those states.”

It is not impossible though and will depend on several other x-factors including, but not limited to, inter-party squabbles, foreign policy debates, or a good old fashion October surprise. The October surprise in this instance may very well be the shutdown itself which goes into effect October 1st. Even if Democrats pull off the coup de grace, the Republicans may retain some power unless the Senate presses forward with the nuclear option for the filibuster. However, in a stormy and uncertain political environment where republicans are unable to replenish their shrinking base, a shut down seems more like a desperate, suicidal gambit than a sophisticated, well reasoned strategy.


Written By David Arroyo


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