The so-called government “shut down” is now in effect,
but as I have recently pointed out the government is not
at all “closed,” and only some non-essential federal
services are unavailable. The federal government has
been slowed down. (Perhaps something not entirely a
Considering the hard line and rhetorical excess of
President Obama’s reaction to the Republican-controlled
U.S. house proposal to delay Obamacare (as a condition
for avoiding the “shut-down”), it would seem that the
Democratic national leadership is more worried about
the situation than they are letting on.
The presumption has been all along that an actual
“shut down” plays to the Democrats’ advantage. This is
based on what happened in 1995 when Bill Clinton was
president and Newt Gingrich was speaker of the house.
That impasse led to a brief “shut down” that helped the
Democrats (who won the public relations battle) in 1996.
It is also based on the fact that a Democrat is in the White
House (as was the case in 1995), and the sitting president
holds the “bully pulpit.”
Initial polls, in fact, are showing that early public opinion
slightly favors the liberal side.
But 2013 is not 1995. Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton
(although the former president is cheering his successor on).
The challenge for Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans,
however, does remain in the battle for public opinion.
The medical healthcare reform known as Obamacare has
just formally begun, but it remains highly unpopular. As
predicted, the cost of health insurance for most adults, as a
result of Obamacare, is going way up, and the likelihood
it will be embraced nationally is low, in spite of the creation
of healthcare exchanges in many states.
In its latest form, the GOP legislation not only delays the
implementation of Obamacare, it cancels the highly unpopular
federal tax on the medical device industry, something which
many Democratic senators (from high tech states such as
Minnesota) strongly support.
Nevertheless, the Old (establishment) Media supports
Obamacare, and the reporting and commentary about the
“shut down” crisis has been largely favorable to the president
and the Democrats.
On the other hand, some GOP leaders appear to have learned
something from previous shutdowns and from the Obama
Democrats media tactics of the past few years.
Perhaps most notably, those GOP leaders include now-former
Speaker Gingrich whose public comments so far have urged
his party’s congressional members not to back down from the
stand they have taken unless there is significant compromise from
Mr. Obama and senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
It is President Obama’s unwillingness to compromise that is
becoming the major issue in this conflict. Unlike Mr. Clinton,
Mr. Obama has a tin ear in this stage of his presidency, a stage
in which he is not only increasingly a “lame duck” but also
sees his political amateurism and repetitive rhetoric reducing
his support in public opinion.
The initial news about Obamacare implementation has been
steadily bad news, and public opinion not only is notably
unfavorable to it, it is understandably getting worse.
But the president still commands the news cycle, the Democrats
still control the U.S. senate, and the liberal “spin” machine is
The next several days will reveal where this “crisis” is going,
It is not a contest about substance. That battle is over.
Obamacare’s days are numbered. The struggle is now about
public opinion in the short term, and its consequences in the
medium-term for the 2014 midterm elections. That contest is
The American public has an important decision to make.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.