Let’s start with this principle: it is generally bad for the United States to shut down the government. That’s fair to say, right? So, anyone who advocates shutting down the government ought to have a good reason for doing it, right?
Here was Newt Gingrich’s reasoning for shutting down the government in the ‘90s: Bill Clinton and his fellow Democrats won the election in 1992. In that election, the American people gave Clinton a mandate to pass certain laws. But Clinton and the Democrats misinterpreted the mandate by spending too much money. The American people noticed, voted for Republicans in 1994, and gave the Republicans a mandate to force President Clinton to cut spending. The Republicans couldn’t do that by normal means because they didn’t control the Presidency. So, they had to use extraordinary means to execute the will of the people by using a government shutdown as a negotiating chip with President Clinton.
I disagree with Speaker Gingrich that the threat of a government shutdown is an appropriate way for one party in a divided government to get its way. But his logic at least makes some sense.
Speaker Boehner was trying to use similar logic. He basically argued that the American people don’t support Obamacare. So, in order to effectuate the will of the people, Republicans could use the tactic of shutting down the government to force a delay or repeal of Obamacare.
Here’s the problem: that makes absolutely no sense. President Obama and Democrats won big in 2008, and healthcare was a major issue in that election, giving Democrats a mandate to pass some form of universal healthcare, which they did. Republicans won big in 2010, arguably creating a mandate for Republicans to try to reform or repeal Obamacare. But they weren’t able to do that in two years. The 2012 election came and Democrats won. The American people had an opportunity to put Republicans in a position to repeal Obamacare, and they declined that opportunity. Instead, the majority voted for Democrats, guaranteeing that Obamacare would not be repealed.
John Boehner and House Republicans have concluded that not only do they still have a mandate to delay/repeal Obamacare, but that it is so strong of a mandate that they are justified in shutting down the government to accomplish it. That’s an incredible misinterpretation! Not only do they lack a mandate to use extreme measures to get their way, they don’t have a mandate at all. It’s like when Jim Carrey asked Lauren Holly what his chances with her were in Dumb and Dumber, she responded “one in a million” and he interpreted that as a positive response:
At this point, the Republican leadership has tried to shift the debate to spending cuts. They’re trying to save face at this point. Polls show that they (predictably) do not have the support of the American people. It’s astonishing that an organization as large and as well-funded as the Republican Party could have made such an obvious error.