The government shutdown may turn out to be a confrontation that is far longer, more dislocating and painful than either side wants. Partly, this is because President Barack Obama has been courting open political conflict, writes senior Commentary magazine editor Jonathan Tobin.
The administration hopes to raise Obama's sagging popularity by exploiting any upheaval unleashed by the closure which the liberal press will blame on the GOP.
Now that the government closure has become a reality, "Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy shutdown," Tobin warns. "Since [Obama] thinks the worse things get the better it will be for Democrats, he has no incentive to compromise even on the most reasonable of Republican demands," Tobin cautions.
Meantime, Republicans have just as much reason to hold firm, Tobin argues. Having gone to the brink and beyond, House Speaker John Boehner can hardly wave a white flag after just a day or two as the going gets tough. That would chip away at the GOP's standing with the American people, says Tobin.
Though polls show
Americans hold generally unfavorable attitudes toward Obamacare, Washington observers nevertheless fret that Americans will blame Republicans more than Democrats for the government shutdown.
In part, this is because divisions between opposing wings of the Republican Party stand nakedly exposed. GOP moderates including Rep. Peter King of New York
and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine
say linking opposition to Obamacare with the continuing functioning of government is a losing strategy. Rep. Devin Nunes of California is less circumspect saying it was "moronic" to shut down the government.
As the pro-Obama camp sees it, tensions – between the moderate-leaning Boehner and the more stalwart Republican camp, which includes not only Tea Party favorites such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky, but also the Speaker's own House colleagues Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Whip Kevin McCarthy — play into the White House strategy.
“This is truly Boehner’s worst nightmare,” a former Obama administration official told The Hill newspaper.
“This is Republican on Republican violence right now. So all Obama has to do now is sit back.”
The Guardian, one of Britain's most leftwing newspapers,
described the shutdown as part of "a battle for the soul of the Republican party."
At the opposite end of the political spectrum, Erick Erickson, editor of the pro-Tea Party Red State website, wrote exasperatedly that the House GOP didn't have the backbone for the battle against Obamacare. "Stand your ground, stop whittling down your proposal, and fight against Obamacare," he demanded.
With Congress divided between a Democrat-controlled Senate and a Republican-held House, politicos are wondering what impact the shutdown will have on the 2014 midterm elections.
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