On Defending Principles
A Wall Street Journal article compares the latest shutdown with the one in 1995-96, and finds few similarities. This passage jumps out:
“The difficulty here is that Republicans have no achievable endgame,” [bold mine-DL] said Daniel Meyer, a former Gingrich chief of staff who went on to serve as White House liaison to the House for President George W. Bush.
Whatever else one wants to say about the last few weeks leading up to the shutdown, it’s the sheer futility of the Republican defunders’ approach that continues to amaze. There is always the danger that any political effort could go wrong or backfire, but there is also usually the possibility that there could be a successful outcome. It is rare to see a coordinated effort to try something that everyone already knows has no chance of succeeding. It is bad enough to seek a maximalist goal with insufficient means, but to seek a goal that is unobtainable from the beginning is baffling. Perseverance is an admirable quality, but like any other it can be taken to excess and become harmful.
At times, you must act on principle and not ask what cost, what are the chances of success.
That might sound impressive until one thinks about it for a moment. Especially when one is defending a principle, it is important to understand what the costs and chances of success are, because it could undermine and even discredit that principle in the eyes of others if the cost is too high or failure is certain. If the principle at stake is a political one, the fact that there is no chance that a particular maneuver will work is relevant, because failure will have political implications that make it more difficult and costlier to defend that principle later on.