Sunday, September 29, 2013

On Strike, Shut it down

Taking their lead from the student anti-war protesters of the 1960s, the wrecker caucus in the Republican Party led by Senator Ted Cruz is on the verge of shutting down the government. Unlike their 1960s counterparts ( I know they just hate that analogy), today's ideologues can cause real damage. Recall that in the 1960s all the students succeeded in doing was shut down a bunch of universities for a few days. All the university employees got paid, and, for the most part, a good time was had by all. Not to be so cavalier, more than a few people were seriously injured. In the interests of full disclosure I was a participant and sometimes close to being a leader.

To be sure the students highlighted their opposition to the Vietnam War, but along the way they helped set the stage for a conservative revival with the election of Ronald Reagan to California's governorship in 1966 and Richard Nixon to the presidency in 1968. That was hardly the outcome the students were seeking.

Today the situation is far different. The stakes are much higher. Hundreds of thousands of people will be furloughed, others will lose their jobs and essential government services will not be provided. Nevertheless, the House Republicans did one very politically smart move in preparing a continuing resolution that will exempt the Defense Department, but the rest of government will feel the full brunt of the shut down. I remember the 1995-6 shutdown under President Bill Clinton. People got really pissed and Clinton ended up smelling like a rose. And remember the Republican had just come off their great 1994 triumph and controlled the Senate as well as the House. This time they are coming off losing the presidency and seats in both the House and Senate.

Simply put, the Republicans can't win this fight. In the eyes of the American people the Democrats are the party of government and the Republicans are the party of at best limited government, or at worst anti-government. So guess who the American people will blame. This would be true even if President Obama were 100% totally at fault. Thus as a matter or pure politics the government shutdown could very well be setting the stage for the return of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

To the the wrecker caucus it is all about defunding or delaying Obamacare. I hate to break it to them, it ain't going to happen. No way the Democrats or President Obama will give up on their signature program. My guess is that the wreckers fear that it will work, and therefore they have to abort the program in the womb. I think that is wrong headed thinking. If Obamacare is going to fail, it will fail of its own weight. My guess is that in 10 years time neither the proponents or the opponents of the health care law will recognize it. In its current form it is way too complicated, but over time it will change, likely for the better.

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