Republicans who fear the effects of a possible government shutdown over Obamacare next month seem, chiefly, to fear that Republicans will be blamed. This blame would translate into losses in next year’s mid-term elections, and if those losses are large enough, they could cost the GOP not only a shot at re-taking the Senate, but could cost control of the House as well. Democrat control of Congress would give Barack Obama nearly unchallenged power for his final two years in office.
Some Republicans fear the consequences of a shutdown so much that they’re smearing Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texan who is leading the defund effort, sniping at him in the media and even sending opposition research on him to Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace.
Their fears are understandable, but they’re overblown.
The 1995 government shutdown, which pitted then House Speaker Newt Gingrich against President Bill Clinton, is widely seen today as a disaster for the Republican Party. It wasn’t. That shutdown put a major dent in President Clinton’s prestige and popularity, while at the same time most Americans actually experienced no ill effects from it. The sky did not fall.
Gingrich and the GOP probably would have won the shutdown outright if he had not come off as a sore winner a few months later, when he appeared to blame it all on a personal snub by Clinton to him. Sen. Cruz and today’s other GOP leaders can be expected not to make such a bonehead, self-centered mistake. They are not Newt Gingrich.
Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. Clinton was a superior politician whose instincts were less ideological than Obama’s. Clinton was able to connect with a majority of the American people directly; Obama has remained aloof and distant during his entire term in office. Clinton was seeking re-election and was thus more malleable; Obama is a far more rigid ideologue who is not facing re-election. Obama is more liable to mistake his re-election for a freer hand to combat Republicans now than Clinton was, and overreach. He made that mistake over gun control, and failed spectacularly. Obama has no one around him in the White House or among his congressional allies to rein in his leftist instincts.