The current political risk taken by the Republican majority
in the U.S house in forcing a so-called “shut-down” of the
government becomes greatly, even unacceptably, magnified
later this month when a decision must be made about whether
or not to raise the national debt ceiling.
The reason is that while the essential government
services continue under a “shut down,” under a federal
default, some of these services may not continue, most
notably, the timely payment of social security checks, but
other essential services as well. Mr. Obama has already
shown a cynical willingness to stop services primarily
to make his opposition look bad.
As much as I oppose increasing the national debt ceiling,
the notion that the Republican-controlled house would refuse
to raise it now is clearly such a politically self-destructive act
that it would likely mortally wound the GOP’s opportunity to
win back the senate in 2014, and could even cause the
Republicans to lose control of the U.S. house, something that
would not ordinarily be easy to do.
This brings us back to the basic circumstance of the current
mood of confrontation which some in the conservative party
are so keen to embrace now. I have made the point for many
months that symbolic ideological acts can bear little benefit
(other than making some conservatives feel good), and might
cause devastating political harm.
The political truth of this moment is not complicated. It is,
in fact, quite simple, to wit: “Government policy cannot be
changed without political control.” It’s that simple.
Even the current “shut down” goal of the Republican
majority is only to delay Obamacare. It cannot be repealed
without majorities in both the U.S. house and senate, and a
conservative president in the White House.
I have argued that Obamacare should be allowed to be
implemented because its fundamental unsustainability will
be apparent from the outset. American voters will register
their opposition to it in 2014, as they did in 2010, in the midterm
elections. Obamacare is 100% the product of the Obama-Reid-
Pelosi Democrats. In 2014, Democratic candidates would have
to answer for their support of this unpopular and ill-conceived
legislation (and for many other ill-conceived new laws and
But if quixotic Republican attempts now to stop what cannot,
in the short-term, be stopped leads to a reversal of public
opinion about their party, the 2014 election will not be about
--- which it should be --- Obamacare and the bad polices of the
Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies have no motive to yield
on the debt ceiling issue. They hold the high cards for now,
but in 2014, the consequences of their policies almost certainly
will cause their trump cards to vanish.
Speaker Boehner should announce immediately that he and
his party have no desire to close the government down, as a
refusal to increase debt ceiling temporarily would do.
Conservatives who want to bring about change should take a
deep breath before undertaking a new and self-destructive
confrontation. Instead, they should roll up their sleeves,
continue to do the hard work of persuading voters to agree
with them, AND get those voters to the polls in November, 2014.
It’s that simple.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.