Monday, October 21, 2013

Weak Tea?

I must live in a different universe than most other people.

Maybe that universe is Ireland, but I don’t think so. I seem to live in a different universe than most Irish people as well as most American people.

For example, I have been listening for many days to pundits, commentators and regular journalists proclaiming that the recently ended U.S. government shutdown was a huge victory for Democrats and an unmitigated disaster for Republicans—or at least that Republicans were hurt a lot more than Democrats. Democratic operatives I have heard on my various podcasts are wishing that the midterm congressional elections could be held this year instead of next year because of the anticipated wave for the president’s party.

Maybe Republicans will pay a price for what went on, but that’s not what happened after the last government shutdown—even though the Republicans back then, as now, were declared the overwhelming bearers of blame.

If the government giving itself authority to borrow enough additional money to keep running for a few more weeks is a huge victory for the president and his party, so be it.

But this is how I see things. If you judge the so-called Tea Party by how well it did at achieving its stated goals over the past few weeks, it failed miserably. But if you judge it against what probably would have happened if it had simply stayed quiet and gone along with business as usual, it actually did pretty well at its objectives.

Journalists all over the major networks, CNN and NPR have been saying that the Republicans made a major miscalculation because if the government had not shut down, those news organizations insist, they would have been giving full-bore coverage of the botched rollout.


The fact is that Democrats are pretty darn good at driving the media narrative and, absent the shutdown, it’s certain they would have been spinning their own issues leading up to and after the passage of the continuing resolution. They would have been everywhere talking about how much pain the sequester is inflicting. The Democrats would have focused all their energy on building momentum for removing the sequester, and the media coverage would likely have reflected that. But that story never materialized because, frankly, the Dems were licking their chops at the prospect of a government shutdown because they knew it would reflect badly on Republicans.

In fact, the Democrats nearly overplayed their hand. When polls inevitably showed that, as expected, Republicans were getting blamed more for the shutdown, at that point the Democrats did try to press their advantage and propose rolling back the sequester, but by then it was too late. They were then in the position of running the risk that it would look like they were now the ones keeping the government shut down. And Republicans were ready with a quick rejoinder to the last-minute assault on the sequester. “It’s the law of the land!” they chided.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if the government hadn’t shut down, everyone would have been talking for the past three weeks about what a disaster Obamacare is and how smart the Republicans were to oppose it. But I don’t think so. Even if I am wrong, it probably won’t matter in the long run anyway.

After all, if the new healthcare system works out its kinks and turns into a smashing success, people won’t remember or care that it got off to a rocky start. On the other hand, if Obamacare turns out to be the albatross around Democrats’ necks that Republicans expect it to be a year from now, the fact that poll responders didn’t much like Republican methods a year earlier will not matter very much. They’ll just remember which party was against the discredited system all along.

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