Contra Mozilla

Monday, October 21, 2013

Shutdown Theater and the Politics of Inflicting the Maximum Misery

One of the miscellaneous uncompleted posts I wrote at some point. Might as well publish it now while the shutdown is still fresh in everyone's minds, even if we have more information now than we did at the time of initial writing.
President Obama--not the House, not even the Senate, but Obama and his administration--was apparently picking and choosing what gets closed and what stays open during the #Shutdown. So while we might blame the shutdown on the Republicans in the House (for starting it by refusing to compromise on Obamacare), or the Democrats in the Senate (for keeping it going by also refusing to compromise on much of anything), it's worth noting that Obama is the one who is deciding to make the shutdown as painful as possible. This at times is involving shutting down parks which are not even normally funded (or staffed) by the government, and perhaps doing the same to "government" services provided by third parties. And that is really the big difference between this shutdown, and the previous 17 which occurred under previous Administrations/Congresses since 1976.

I'm curious to see what, if any, impact this has on the popularity of the President, as well as both chambers of Congress [bad for both]. I ask this in the context of the president's approach--maximizing suffering for everyone during the shutdown--as a tactic for ending the shutdown.

My suspicion remains that everyone will simply continue to blame whichever party he favors less--that has been my observation so far, anyway. There are two ways to internalize this. The first is to argue that Obama wasn't picking and choosing, that his hands were tied. This was the official stance of the administration. The other is to argue that Obama was picking and choosing, and that it did in fact increase short-term suffering, but that he did so to force the Republicans' hand (which ultimately, predictably, happened). The line of reasoning is that this is a small short-term sacrifice in order to make a larger long-term gain: ostensibly, the reopening of the fraction of the government which was shut-down, but realistically a victory for bloated bureaucracy and government of gargantuan proportions.

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