Home/Daniel Larison/Republicans Were Never Going to “Win” the Shutdown

Republicans Were Never Going to “Win” the Shutdown

Roberta Costa reports on the mood among House Republicans:

It’s obvious, but it is worth saying once again: there never could have been a “big win” for Republicans under the circumstances, and it is doubtful that they could have “won” the current standoff in any way. Too many on the right believe false promises of unlikely or impossible political victory, and the false expectation prompts them to make futile stands that end up worsening their already weak position. While it’s true that the administration and Congressional Democrats are also taking damage the longer the shutdown continues, Republicans cannot prevail in a “war” of attrition like this, because they started in the weaker position and have much less goodwill to squander than the other side.

This is one reason why comparisons with the 1995-96 shutdown experience are potentially so misleading when thinking about the current one: the Republican Party as a whole was much more well-liked in the mid-’90s than it has been in the last seven years, and so was less likely to suffer serious political damage from clashes with the president. As much as GOP unfavorability has increased recently, it has been very high since it rose above 50% during Bush’s second term. It is almost five years since Bush left office, and the party was only just barely stating to recover from the loss of public trust and favor that it experienced during his tenure. The last two weeks have quickly undone that halting recovery. The Bush legacy continues to be a drag on the party’s prospects, and that reminds people of what can happen when Republicans run the government. Because of that, the current GOP has a much higher bar to clear to prove that it deserves to regain the public’s trust, and it puts them in a significantly weaker position in almost any confrontation with the administration than Republicans in the ’90s were. If Republicans didn’t win “big” back then, it is folly to expect that they could now.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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