ERICKSON: Shutdown politics

October 4, 2013 

While I appreciate C. Jack Ellis and his supporters using me to keep Jack’s name alive, I must move on to other politics. Just remember to go vote. I will, for Robert Reichert.

The government in Washington, D.C. is shut down right now. I expect it to be shut down a while longer. Democrats say they will not negotiate. Republicans say they must. The longer it goes on, Republicans benefit.

Republican leaders and Democrats hate the tea party. The Republican leadership has no more use for the tea party than Barack Obama does. The tea party has made things very difficult for the GOP.

But there are now 30 to 40 members of Congress who directly owe their elections to the tea party. They are not beholden to Karl Rove or John Boehner or Wall Street or the various billionaire Republican donors. They are ideological fighters who really believe Obamacare is bad for the nation and intend to fight to the bitter end to shut it down.

That makes it very difficult for Republicans to negotiate. If the GOP cuts a deal with Democrats that alienates its conservative base, the base might not show up in 2014 or, worse, elicit primary opposition for their respective reelection efforts. This leaves little room for compromise.

In Washington, both sides are very used to shifting positions for money. The lives and careers of politicians shift over time from ideology to Washington entrenchment. When Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid retire from office, they will most likely stay in Washington as residents inside the Beltway. Rep. Dick Gephardt did that. Sen. Tom Daschle did that. Rep. Newt Gingrich did that.

When Sen. Ted Cruz or Sen. Mike Lee or Rep. Tom Graves or Rep. Paul Broun retire from Washington, does anyone really expect them to stay there? They do not like the city and aim to disrupt the place. They are not there for money or invites to cocktail parties. This profoundly changes the game.

More so, the American public deeply dislikes Obamacare. Democrats can say it is because they have not gotten a chance to live under it yet, but after three days of rolling out Obamacare, the Washington media thus far had only found three people who enrolled in the exchanges. One lives in North Carolina, one in Georgia and one in Louisiana.

California initially claimed 5 million people wanted Obamacare, due to interest in their health-care exchange website. The number was then scaled back to 675,000 interested people based on accounts created. But as of this writing, we are still waiting to find people who actually enrolled in their program.

Americans do not like Obamacare. They do not like Washington, D.C. They hate the Republican Party, but they do not much care for Democrats or the president these days too. Americans want fundamental change. Right now, the only change agents are people like Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. You may not like the change they offer, but they’re the only change game in town.

Democrats clearly thought because Americans hate Republicans this would be an easy win. They also knew Republican leaders hate Ted Cruz and the tea party. So their calculation was the GOP would either cave or move quickly out of a shutdown. But the Democrats forgot the other calculation. Once in a shutdown, the GOP has no incentive to reopen government without some sort of win.

Saying they will not negotiate puts the Democrats in a worse position because Americans expect them to negotiate. The GOP will not come out of this unscathed, but the Democrats won’t either.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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