Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shutdown! Day 3!!

From Slate's Images of the Shutdown
On Day 3 we see Obama's Real Clear Politics Approval rating has climbed .6 points since Sept 30th. He's about 6pts underwater. Congressional approval has fallen .6 points and they're about 63pts underwater.

What's Happened?
“We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” --Rep. Michael Grimm (The Washington Examiner)
There are rumors of Boehner and the Obama administration cooking up some 'grand bargain' which presumably solves both the Debt Ceiling and the Shutdown (and maybe gives everyone a puppy-unicorn while they're at it). Bank CEOs met with Obama and he came out saying we should be 'concerned.' Yet more polling shows Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown.
Tactics and Strategy
Yesterday we saw:
  1. A stated intent to get more piece-meal bills to the Senate (where Harry Reid, dubbed Dr. No, has said he'll dispose of them) to fund popular pieces of the government. This is, more or less, the Ted Cruz strategy in so far as he has one (GOP members met with him in private and concluded he did not).
  2. World War II vets 'stormed' the WWII memorial despite its closed-ness. This was deemed a major triumph and conservative radio super-start Mark Levin has threatened to bring HALF-A-MILLION people to that monument! Don't test him, Obama! He means it!
  3. The conservatives on my Twitter feed trumpeted a Harry Reid quote that they claim means he doesn't care about kids with cancer. Apparently that's not how it actually went down.
Today: The Goal IS The Shutdown
I think that the way things are evolving the shutdown is now its own goal. It's invigorating the base (and the stats say that if Republicans do "pay the price" in 2014 it'll be the moderates who are out--not the safe Tea Party districts). The fight is presumably evolving from Obamacare to spending / financial reform:
This is why, despite "logic" the GOP is trying to make the shutdown less painful when it was supposed to be The Pain that made Obama give up on Obamacare. The goal for the base representatives right now is to shift the conversation without getting caught.

In 2001 right after 9/11 the Taliban apparently felt quite safe: there was NO WAY America, a weak horse, would put "boots on the ground." I read they thought we might sue them (that was their joke). When it became apparent that we would, they felt certain that after a bloody nose we'd retreat--they felt the American people had no appetite for combat: we loved life. They wanted to be martyred.

They simply could not understand what the sight of the towers falling would do to the American people. It was a grave miscalculation.

In 2012 Romney, on the last night of the campaign, had no resignation speech prepared. This wasn't the power-of-positive thinking at work as an explicit strategy: He simply felt he wasn't going to lose despite overwhelming polling numbers telling him it wasn't even close.

I think there was something like this at work when Ted Cruz started his movement. At the private GOP Senate lunch referenced above:

“It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was,” said one senator who attended the meeting. “I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch.”
Of course Cruz couldn't articulate an end-game: there isn't one--not without holding the Senate and the presidency. The question is this: why would anyone (including Cruz) think there was? Certainly his plan was not: Leverage the base's mania about Obamacare to get a shutdown then, as the R's get hammered, shift the conversation to budgeting and win a smaller Federal government while further damaging the party's reputation.

That might be a way out--but it's not worth going all in on either. It's not what he spent 21 hours talking about.

So what happened? Here's what I suspect: if Romney, a smart, centered, numbers-oriented guy could be fooled into thinking he wasn't just a potential winner--but nearly a lock then so too could Cruz internalize the story conservatives tell each other about Obama: that he is weak and feckless.

Like the Taliban's thinking on the American people, he may have assumed that Obama would fold prior to any actual shutdown if he just looked strong enough. He may have assumed at the 12th hour that after a day or so of crashing polls (certainly everyone would see this as Obama's shutdown after he excoriated and eviscerated Obamacare on the floor for 21 hours) Obama would curl up in the fetal position.

These were both ridiculous (the numbers showed it would be the Tea Party and the R's who'd get the blame, Obama would have to be ready to fold not just one measly law but his whole administration and legacy, and, once it started, it has been clear that the GOP's message machine isn't exactly a power-house of clarity and effectiveness either). He may not have realized that almost no one, practically speaking, watched his 21 hour monologue and came back in the morning to hear about Green Eggs and Ham.

But just because the current situation looks ridiculous doesn't mean he couldn't have really believed everything would go his way.

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