All of the polls show it: The Republicans are desperately losing the government shutdown battle and they’re embarrassing themselves by continuing to fight. It begs many questions, but most importantly, why does the GOP continue to fight a battle with no clear goal at the expense of not just their party, but the fate of then entire U.S. government?
Maybe it’s because they’re actually winning.
Though the media has largely painted the GOP as the reckless, kamikaze caucus, Peter Beinart argues in a column for The Daily Beast that Republicans are not only in perfect control of the government shutdown fight, but that they’ll win in the long run no matter what happens.
“If this is Republican surrender,” says Beinart, “I hope I never see Republican victory.”
To wit, Beinart points to the previous shutdown battle of 2011 which culminated in the Budget Control Act which agreed to cut spending by $917 billion over ten years. A part of that agreement led to the 2012 sequester, which ended up creating $1.2 trillion in arbitrary cuts. Though most have agreed that these cuts were “harsh” and “brutal,” the GOP managed to get all of the spending cuts it wanted without raising taxes once.
Indeed, House Speaker John Boehner boasted “I got 98 percent of what I wanted” out of the fight.
As recently as last month, GOP leadership said that locking in the sequester cuts through a “clean” continuing resolution that extended into 2014 would return to the country to a “pre-2008 level of discretionary spending.”
What does this mean? Basically, cementing the sequester spending cuts and creating a new baseline from which future negotiations must begin un-does much of the expensive work that President Obama has managed to accomplish in five years and prevents him from meaningfully moving forward on the reforms (immigration, energy, etc.) he promised during the 2012 election.
And taxes didn’t go up.
The media is obsessively focusing on the GOP’s failure to meaningfully defund or delay Obamacare, and chalking it up to a massive party failure. But, as Beinart notes:
“But that’s like saying that the neighborhood bully has caved because after demanding your shoes and bike, he’s once again willing to accept merely your lunch money.”
Furthermore, it actually puts the GOP into a comfortable position for upcoming elections.
“The problem, as the last few weeks have shown, is that the GOP keeps defining moderation down. For instance, the Washington GOP’s plummeting approval ratings may well boost the presidential prospects of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, just as the Gingrich Congress paved the way for the comparatively moderate George W. Bush. Like Bush, Christie is described as moderate because he has Democratic allies in his home state and because his rhetoric is not as harsh on cultural issues. But in the White House, Bush’s economic policies were hardly moderate. To the contrary, from taxes to social security to regulation, he governed well to the right of Ronald Reagan.”
So, the question isn’t whether the GOP will ultimately cave for fear of their poll numbers. This assumes that they care about public perception at all, and given their behavior of late, it seems clear that they do not. The question is whether Democrats will cave in an effort to preserve their own, normally unified, part integrity. The GOP is effectively wielding history against them.
Like we said, radical. You can read Beinart’s full column here, but let us know what you think. Could the government shutdown be a win for the Republicans, despite all appearances to the contrary?