After over two weeks, the federal government of the USA has been reopened. There is now a raise in the debt ceiling and funding of the government that will last until at least winter.
In short, President Obama’s strategy on how to stop extortion seems to have worked.
All the Republican demands, even the delay of the medical device tax in the Affordable Care act, have been shelved. Why? Because Obama refused to accept day-to-day operations of the government, much less the economy, as negotiable. It’s too bad he didn’t do this two years ago. Once you agree to negotiate over the faith and credit of the United States, it’s not easy to back away from that. But he seems to have learned his lesson. Let’s hope the same proves true of the Republicans who shut down the government.
So what are the political effects of the shutdown? The Republican party has fallen to its lowest rating in history. Does this mean anything for next year’s midterm elections? Not necessarily. Except in exceptional circumstances, midterms work against the President’s party, especially those happening in his second term. It should be noted, though, that presidents who have it tough in the first set of midterms tend to be the ones who are luckier in the second set (see Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan*).
In the immediate future is the off-year elections. The only particularly suspenseful race is the governor’s race in Virginia. This is a race that the Republicans should expect to win. Why? Because it’s been forty years since a President’s party won it. Since then, any time a party won the Presidency, it would lose the governorship of Virginia a year later. This time, though, the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, has a hefty lead over opponent Ken Cuccinelli.
And yet, this may not mean much. Unless the Republicans commit political suicide again, the midterm rule should go back into effect by the time the campaigns heat up. So instead of the Democrats gaining 28 seats, they’ll gain, oh, perhaps three. The shutdown will probably be more significant for the Senate than the House. If another shutdown happens later on, things might get interesting.
Which brings me back to whether this will happen again. The case for this being an unusual calm between storms is pretty solid. Conservative commentators were predictably pissed. They felt that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell caved, that the system has proven broken, that Republicans weren’t really being blamed but Republicans panicked anyway, and so on.
The beauty of this argument, by the way, is that it heads the rational conclusion off at the pass. If the shutdown turns what should be the usual midterm push against Obama into united government (and make no mistake, history says that mere conservative apathy will not cause that), the right can claim that they “knew” all along that backing down from brinkmanship would lead to defeat. Very clever, Matt.
Still, Republicans in Congress know the truth all too well. They have seen the anger over this and will not be so eager to test the patience of the American people again. Moreover, politicians hate losing. Once a strategy proves to be a legislative, as well as political, failure, they may lack the ego as well as the will to try it again.
On the other hand, the next deadline will be on the doorstep of primary season. That would make it harder for them to say no. Maybe even impossible. Don’t forget that about 190 Republicans are safe no matter what, but all who dissent from the party line are vulnerable in a primary.
So I really don’t know how this will turn out. Frankly, I suspect that anyone who claims to be sure is either cocky or lying.
*Reagan did fare badly in the post-election hype, though. The psychological effects of the Democrats winning control of the Senate made their disastrous gubernatorial efforts seem unimportant to most.