Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Here are the strategies the Republicans should adopt, but won't

Hey, Republicans, you don't have a strategy for the shutdown.  That much is clear from your inept negotiating, your publicity stunts, and, of course the already-famous quote from Rep. Stutzman: "We're not going to be disrespected.  We've got to get something out of this.  And I don't know what that even is."  But that's okay, it's never too late to start thinking ahead!  Might I suggest a couple of approaches?

1.  If you're absolutely, absolutely determined to take this thing down to the wire, go ahead and raise the debt ceiling already.  I know, I know--you crazy kids think it's giving you leverage over the president.  Sure, you tell yourselves, he's ignoring you now, but come Oct. 15th, he'll have to listen.

Well, he won't.  The fiasco in 2011 taught President Obama that messing with the debt ceiling is playing with fire.  He set off a whole string of budget-related crises and didn't have a thing to show for it.  Keeping the government closed is bad, but default would be catastrophic; as long as the debt ceiling is in the mix, the administration is going to be heavily focused on breaking the your party's delusion that default makes a great bargaining chip.  

Raising the ceiling muddles the administration's mission a little bit.  Governments have a history of shutting down over policy disagreement, and as a result, there's less fear about setting a new, bad precedent.  The shutdown makes life more difficult for everyone, and without the artificial deadline imposed by the debt ceiling, it could potentially drag on for many weeks or months.  It's an environment where you really might be able to force an exhausted administration to make some concessions.  Not closing-down-Obamacare type concessions, but, in Rep. Stutzman's words, "something."

Oh, and what's more, the debt ceiling's long shadow is endangering your own coalition.  There's almost no doubt that a large faction within in your own party desperately wants to avoid default, because default would be a disaster. Many of those people are also skeptical about the wisdom of the shutdown. But right now, they don't seem to have much appetite for concerted resistance: breaking with the party could potentially cause them all manner of trouble, up to and including losing their seats.  Once the full faith and credit of the United States is threatened, however, some of these moderates might well be willing to take one for the team.  (By "team," I mean "America.")  They lose their job, but they get to be heroes.   

So raise the debt ceiling.  It'll firm up your ranks and strengthen your hand.

2.  What's that?  You can't?  The Tea Party faction wouldn't vote for it?  Well, then you ought to just abandon this thing as soon as possible.  If you can't prolong the shutdown for ages and ages (and again, unless you raise the debt ceiling, everyone knows it'll end by Oct. 17th), you should probably just give up now.  The longer you wait, the worse your position gets.  Voters get angrier.  More and more dissent emerges in the party.  The media becomes increasingly willing to blame you, and you alone, for all the bad stuff that's happening.  You get the gist.  

In fact, as a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, I'm a little concerned that it'll end too early.  Too many House members will wise up and abandon Boehner, leading to a quick CR.  The whole affair will ultimately be prosecuted in the media after the fact, which is a much friendlier environment for you.  It'll devolve into he-said-she-said, Obama-was-mean-and-the-GOP-was-unreasonable, and by election time, everyone will have forgotten just how crappy you are at your job.  

You could totally speed this process along, though!  You just have to give up!

So, anyway, there are your options.  Raise the debt ceiling now, or call the whole thing off.  Something tells me you won't take either of them, but trust me, soon enough, you'll wish you had.

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