What conclusions should we draw from the about-to-end partial government shutdown? Here are my initial thoughts:
1. The partial shutdown wasn’t anything close to a national calamity. Life went on pretty much as normal. No disastrous event occurred as a result of the government running at about 80 percent of capacity.
2. Therefore, even though the public places primary blame for the partial shutdown on Republicans, the partial shutdown won’t have calamitous political consequences for Republicans.
3. Still, the public wasn’t happy about the partial shutdown; nor should we be. Many of us pay plenty of money to keep the government running and we expect it to run in full. We don’t expect services to be curtailed because of political disagreements in Washington.
4. The partial shutdown thus carries adverse consequences for the Republican Party, since the public blames Republicans more than Democrats for it.
5. The main political damage accrues because the partial shutdown reinforces public doubt that Republicans can be trusted to govern. More than anything else, such doubt explains why the electorate declines to entrust Republicans with true governance even though it tends to support Republican positions on many, if not most, key issues.
6. Obamacare will be a bigger factor in the 2014 election than this partial shutdown. This shutdown is about to end; Obamacare persists.
7. Obamacare is unpopular and likely to remain so throughout next year. If anything, it will probably become more unpopular as people see what a bad deal it is for most of them.
8. The partial shutdown did not contribute to Obamacare’s unpopularity. It has always been highly unpopular. If anything, the partial shutdown deflected some attention from the severe problems associated with the rollout of the Obamacare exchanges. The partial shutdown is over, but now the MSM can treat the problems with the exchanges as “old news.”
9. The partial shutdown did not help Republicans by showing the public that the Party opposes Obamacare. Republicans have loudly opposed Obamacare since Day 1. It was passed with no Republican support. Republicans ran against it in 2010 and 2012. The House has voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times.
10. President Obama can expect a bounce from the recent drama. The public likes winners, and Obama won. He probably will receive credit for standing firm and showing that, once enacted, legislation cannot effectively be repealed by impairing the government’s ability to deliver services.
How much of bounce Obama will receive and how long it will last, I do not know. My guess is that it won’t last long. The damage to the Republican brand will likely last longer.
Again, come November 2014, Obamacare will probably be a much bigger drag on the Democrats than this partial shutdown will be on Republicans. But with the Senate (at a minimum) in the balance, Republicans would have been better off with no self-inflicted drag at all.