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Does The Shutdown Really Mean Anything?

Once the shutdown happened on Friday, as the Senate failed to pass a funding bill, the speculation and analyses went directly to asking which party will take the most heat as a result of Congressional inaction. Most polls still give President Trump and Republicans a greater share of the blame, though it looks like Democrats will not get off the hook entirely. The real question, however, is whether voters will care and/or remember by the time we hit November. We have short attention spans and President Trump has a knack for altering the narrative whenever he wishes, just wait for the next controversial tweet.

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FiveThirtyEight had a recent “politics chat” over the question of which party would be affected more, and here are some of the tidbits:

anna (Anna Maria Barry-Jester, immigration and health reporter): The polling around immigration, attitudes towards DACA and the shutdown paints a pretty complicated picture. The majority of the country wants a long-term fix for DACA, people don’t want the government shut down over an immigration bill, and the country at large is all over the place on what it wants in terms of immigration more broadly.

perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): If your general view is that people will forget about this shutdown like four weeks after it happens and Democrats will still make gains in November, I agree with that.

hilary.krieger (Hilary Krieger, Washington editor): Yes, that is my view too. But also, embracing a more extreme, confrontational, tea party-style politics seems to be what the Democratic base wants, and this may motivate them more. The rest of the country, while annoyed, has gotten enough used to this brinkmanship that they won’t hold it against the Democrats in significant amounts.

perry: But I’m not sure this shutdown increases the odds of a DACA provision passing. It’s already pretty clear that at least 218 House members and 60 senators would back some kind of DACA-style law with a few border enforcement measures attached. The problem is House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell don’t want to push a bill that the majority of Republicans oppose, even though I think Trump would sign it.

The polling is fairly mixed, with most voters tending to support allowing DACA recipients some kind of permanent residency, but opposing a move to shutdown the government over this particular matter. Though if you ask me, the term “shutdown” is used very loosely when it comes to government funding and operations. There is a big portion that never shuts down entirely, so life goes on.

What we have is the scenario where both parties are trying to make a stand which appeals to their respective base. Perhaps the core constituents will remember this in November, while the public at large will have moved on in a week.

My instincts here tell me that neither party will really benefit or gain from the current shutdown. One reason is that it’s happening in January, as opposed to October, which is when the 2013 shutdown occurred. The shutdown five years ago happened just weeks before the off-year election so the issue was still fresh for talking points and the blame game. By most accounts, Republicans lost that one in terms of who receives the most blame.

I also think the polling of who is to “blame” is rather sloppy in terms of gauging public opinion. As a voter, it’s possible to “blame” one party of the other, but that doesn’t tell us whether you agree or disagree with the reason for the shutdown. The truth here is that both parties are to blame when it comes to not passing a funding bill. The question is which party is perceived to be the one being most obstinate and holding out for a particular issue before agreeing to any compromise.

The Senate will be voting at noon today on a compromise bill to fund the government and get things moving again.

Nate Ashworth :Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

View Comments (1)

  • You certainly have not asked any of the government workers who will be working without pay in your article. I realize that they will be paid retroactively, however they will remember who caused the shutdown. Democrats are using American citizens as bargaining chips to protect the DACA illegals. You can be sure they will remember come the November midterms and the Democrats will pay dearly.?