Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Who Will Get the Blame for a Government Shutdown?

Washington Post opinion writer Michael Gerson, who worked in the George W. Bush White House, offers this assessment of the looming government shutdown:
This maneuver has also placed House Speaker John Boehner in exactly the position he wanted to avoid. Obama’s offer is more than reasonable. A $30 billion reduction, after all, was the initial Republican negotiating position back in early February. Given that Republicans control only the House, this level of cuts would normally be viewed as a remarkable success. But a portion of the Republican conference longs for a confrontation that results in a government shutdown, preferring a fight over a victory. And the only worse outcome for Boehner than a politically risky shutdown is a deeply split conference, pitting the Republican establishment against Tea Party purists — a result that would undermine all future Republican progress.
I don't know how things will turn out, but I hope he's right. E.J. Dionne isn't so sure, and points to this poll that finds that voters would apportion blame evenly.

We're into improvisational politics here; public opinion on the last shutdown depended heavily on who appeared to be more reasonable. With the Tea Party right itching for a fight, this may be more difficult for the GOP than for Obama.

My instincts tell me that most voters like politicians who work things out, which is why Jack Markell is more popular (and more effective) than Scott Walker. The problem for Republicans is, as Ezra Klein puts it, "It increasing feels like the House GOP doesn’t want to take “yes” for an answer." The question of who gets blamed for a government shutdown may depend on the question of who is seen as wanting a deal and who is seen as wanting a confrontation.

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