Lessons Learned: The debt ceiling and government shutdown.

The Republican strategy to shut down the government and risk default unless Democrats agreed to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) did not turn out as planned. On October 17, 2013 Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling and return government employees to work. Meanwhile, Obamacare lives on.

In short, the strategy not only failed but backfired, sending Republican approval levels to their lowest ever. What remains to be seen is how the polling numbers will impact the 2014 and 2016 elections.

In my mind the debacle reinforces certain trends that we have already seen; at the state and national level, the public largely views Republicans with distrust and as simply out of touch. This isn’t some liberal bias; when the Republican National Committee commissioned a survey to assess what went wrong during the 2012 elections, even their own assessment found that public perception of Republicans is “at record lows,” and that the Party is “scary” and “out of touch.” And that survey came in March 2013, well before the shutdown. As such, the Senate will remain moderate and controlled by Democrats. Hillary Clinton, assuming she wants to run, will win.

But at the local level the dynamics change because the national pols no longer matter. Deeply conservative districts will continue to support anyone that is pro-gun, pro-life, anti-Obamacare. The same districts will therefore continue supporting their representative; hence the popularity of lawmakers like Ted Cruz and continued stardom of folks like Governor Palin. Another force keeping Republicans afloat is redistricting. The practice allows Congressmen to chose their voters, which in turn keeps the Congressmen in power. Have any doubts that their constituents wanted them to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government are erased just by looking at how the House voted on October 17, 2013 . All 198 Democrats voted in favor, along with 87 Republicans. Yet 144 Republicans, which is approximately one quarter of the House, voted no. Those 144 representatives are here to stay.

In 2008 many thought that Candidate-elect Obama’s historic win put the final nail in the Republican Party’s coffin. Yet that prediction proved totally wrong with the 2010 elections that sent Tea Partiers to DC. Fast forward to today, and with 144 Representatives still working against the Senate and The White House to find common ground and govern sensibly, it would again be folly to assume that Republicans are a dying breed.

The lesson here is that the next few election cycles will see Democrats controlling the Senate, Democrats in the White House, and a hardened Republican/Tea Party minority in the House that is just powerful enough to make the United States practically ungovernable.

So what did we learn this week? That in future budget and debt negotiations,we are destined to repeat the past.

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