By Tim Stanley
The shutdown is basically over and the President has won. Or, at least, he’s won because the Republicans have definitely lost. Not only did they not get what they wanted – that “life or death” delay on Obamacare implementation – but they’ve given the impression of dragging partisanship to new lows. Obamacare had been passed already, the Supreme Court had okayed it and Obama had won an election on it, yet the GOP was still prepared to bring the country to the brink of ruin to cripple it. When Grover Norquist is saying that the Right went too far (he of the “drown government in the bath tub” fame) then the Right probably went a bit too far.
But there are caveats to that narrative. First, the Republicans aren’t the only ones who ought to hang their heads in shame. It was the Democrat-controlled Senate that first rejected the House’s bill and so sparked the crisis. It was the President who refused to talk to anyone about it (and went campaigning instead). It was the federal government – even when in shutdown – that behaved like a spoiled child, covering war memorials in fences and trying to stop military priests from saying Mass. And it was the mainstream media that took the side of the President and helped foster the impression that the GOP is run by a bunch of blowhard crazy people. For example, Dave Weigel points out that, contrary to reports,wild child Ted Cruz actually had “no intention” of delaying the critical final vote in the Senate. His image of being Sarah Palin 2.0 is entirely a media myth.
Second, what has Obama really won? He keeps his precious healthcare reform and he gets government open again – but tomorrow morning he’ll still have the same gridlocked political system that he had the night before. The shutdown is a rare example of him winning, but remember that this lame duck president has not only had a very simple (and, frankly, inoffensive) gun control bill killed in the Senate but was so spooked by bad poll numbers that he tried to dump responsibility for military action in Syria onto the Congress – before quietly dropping the idea altogether. Any thought that the shutdown payoff will be that he can sail an immigration reform package comfortably through Congress is pure fantasy. This is a broken presidency living out its last few years either holding off Republican attacks or lazily cruising the country on some pointless, endless, fatuous campaign trail. Obama’s administration is politically bankrupt.
The talk for the next week will be about how the Tea Party is dead and Republicans must elect a politically correct, middle-of-the-road, unimaginative, establishment, compromising candidate in 2016 (preferably a singing sloth, cos the polls show that Americans just love those). But the reality is that US politics right now is a mess for both Left and Right, and the country is stuck in partisan limbo until the 2014 midterms or even the 2016 presidential election. This is not a Republican problem, it is an American problem.