There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Republican circles on Wednesday, as the party went down to a widely acknowledged defeat in the great government shutdown battle of ’13.
As a result of a last-minute-before-the-phony-baloney-default-deadline deal the government will be fully back in business on Thursday, which is disappointing enough to any true Republican, and it’s hard to see what the GOP won in exchange in for the bad press and battered poll numbers that it suffered during the much-ballyhooed brinksmanship that proceeded it. The deal does not withhold funding from the much hated Obamacare law, which was the quixotic goal that started all the fuss, nor does it end Congress’ hugely unpopular exemption from the law or delayed its widely hated individual mandate, which we were the backup bargaining conditions of the rebellious Republicans, and it doesn’t seem to offer anything in the way of budget cuts or entitlement reforms or any sort of face-saving fig-leaf at all. The Democratic partisans who predominate in the press are predictably triumphalist, while the conservative outposts of the media are engaged in the usual internecine finger-pointing.
Most of the “RINO” or “establishment” portions of the party, as they’re known to their more rock-ribbed critics, are plausibly claiming vindication for their warnings against the shutdown strategy. Meanwhile the “extremist” or “loony-bird” segments of the party, as they’re known to their more cautious colleagues, are angrily and plausibly arguing that it might have worked if only the party had not been undermined by the weak-kneed defections of those darned “RINOs” and “establishment” types. Both might well be right, at least to some extent, but intra-party sniping is only further proof that the battle did not go well.
About the best that can be said of the deal is that it could have been worse, as it’s all very short-term in extending the government’s ravenous appetite for debilitating debt and record spending, and thus provides future opportunities to attempt to restrain these disastrous tendencies, but that’s not saying much. Partisan rooting aside, and the enthusiastic response of Wall Street to any sort of default-delaying deal notwithstanding, the deal does nothing to address the nation’s most pressing problems but merely puts off the day of reckoning by a few months. A few months hence the same realities of the current political and media landscape that caused Wednesday’s debacle will still prevail, and necessary reforms will likely once again be thwarted no matter how deft or unified the Republicans might be.
Which is why the Republicans should be primarily concerned with changing the political landscape after next year’s mid-term election, and stop in the finger-pointing and aspersion-casting that threatens to turn it into another debacle for the party. The government shutdown affected few people other than some unlucky visitors to the national parks and monuments, most of whom understand that the heavy-handed tactics they encountered there were the fault of officious Democrats, and it will be long forgotten in the eternal span of 13 moths from now. Obamcare’s myriad disasters will still be with us, as will the sputtering economy and overwhelming debt that Obamacare and other administration policies are causing, and the Republican party’s stubborn and poll-defying resistance to such nonsense could prove a winning argument if the GOP doesn’t cannibalize itself in the coming months.
– Bud Norman