Huffpost Politics

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Sean McElwee Headshot

The Republicans Are Winning the Shutdown

Posted: Updated:

Seriously. I realize that most polls indicate that Americans are putting the blame on Republicans for the government shutdown (the fact that a single voter blames the Democrats or Obama already means the Republicans are winning). But in terms of actual politics, the Republicans are definitely winning -- in fact, they have been for the last five years.

Obama has lost Waxman-Markey (climate change), Manchin-Toomey (gun control and the Gang of Eight (Immigration). Dodd-Frank (finance reform) has been dismantled and hasn't even begun to correct the damage wrecked by Gramm-Leach-Bliley (which repealed Glass-Steagall) and the Commodities Modernization Act (deregulating derivatives).

Remember that his health care reform was supposed to include a public option, universal Medicaid expansion and exclude the Cadillac tax. Ideally, of course, we would move to single-payer or socialized medicine, but this is America! We're exceptional! Guess who said this in 2008: "I mean, if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house." Yeah, that's right. Obama. His agenda has been so decimated that he's literally having to pass off old moderate Republican ideas as genuine leftism, and he's still being called a commie!

Obama has been negotiating with sociopaths for the last five years. He came in ready to bargain, but has instead met a party immune to compromise. Obama has gained literally nil in revenue, while spending has been cut drastically (and foolishly). Now, he's being asked to give up his major (only?) legislative victory for absolutely nothing in return. In fact, the Democrats position right now is to beg for a "clean-CR" that would cut spending below Paul Ryan's first budget and basically to the level he proposed for 2014. That's right, the current Democratic position is to cut funding roughly to the level of what the extreme Rand Acolyte/Republican "idea" man is asking for. Dear readers, let me restate this one more time. The Democratic position right now is to keep in place a law based around a Republican idea and cut spending below what Republicans wanted in 2010.

Not only that, but Republicans are holding the government hostage to reduce the deficit while the deficit is already falling. So why are they still fighting? Here's one possible reason. But more likely it's because, wait for it: Republicans aren't really worried about debt. If they were, they wouldn't be holding the debt ceiling hostage, since all of the negative effects that would come from high levels of debt (possible default, higher interest rates) are guaranteed if the U.S. defaults. Rather, the Republicans, in the words of Grover Norquist, "want to make government so small you can drown it in a bathtub." Republicans aren't really that concerned about spending, as long as it's for rich farmers or connected defense contractors. They don't want to pass legislation; they want to obstruct it, following Limbaugh's advice: make him fail.

So how are they doing? Well, if the clean CR passes, spending in FY 2014 will be $217 billion below what President Obama requested and $19 billion more than what Paul Ryan requested. That sounds like a victory to me. Worse, here's how many bills have been passed during the last 13 congresses. Republicans have essentially stopped Congress from doing it's most basic jobs: passing bills and appropriating funds.

The Republican quest to cut spending and taxes while not actually doing anything hasn't been stalled by the fact that they lost the presidency, the Senate and got fewer votes in the House than the Democrats. They've so dramatically shifted the conversation that they are still winning.

The truth is, Republicans have been winning since the '80s and haven't stopped. The Clinton/Obama domestic agenda is right of Nixon/Eisenhower. There is no left in America. Democrats would qualify as center-right in any other country, while the Republicans would constitute a fringe right-wing nationalist party that generally takes in 10 percent of unemployed alcoholic racists with free time to come up with crazy conspiracy theories. The Tea Party patriots would be bunkered underground prepping for a coming apocalypse. In America, they are a major national party, holding the government hostage for even more draconian spending cuts (and maybe some tax giveaways for their rich friends). As long as they keep gerrymandering districts, make sure blacks don't get to vote and take a never-compromise position, Republicans will keep winning. I just wish they could stop whining.