Don't look now, but there finally appears to be some work getting done in order to reopen the government and get some kind of deal achieved on increasing the debt ceiling through meetings between the White House and congressional Republicans. But Republicans are hardly negotiating from a position of strength. Note that the story points out that "the White House and its Democratic allies in Congress were all but declaring victory at the evidence that Republicans — suffering the most in polls, and pressured by business allies and donors not to provoke a government default — were seeking a way out of the impasse." That part about "suffering in the polls" is no joke, by the way:
The Republican Party has been badly damaged in the ongoing government shutdown and debt limit standoff, with a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finding that a majority of Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown, and with the party’s popularity declining to its lowest level.
By a 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent), the public blames the Republican Party more for the shutdown than President Barack Obama – a wider margin of blame for the GOP than the party received during the poll during the last shutdown in 1995-96.
Just 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion about the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party, which are both at all-time lows in the history of poll.
I would like to use this blog post in order to thank the shutdown caucus for bringing about this unmitigated political/public relations disaster for the Republican party, and for the right in general. No Democrat or liberal, actively working to undermine the starboard side of American politics, could possibly have done a better job than the suicide squards of the right did with the GOP's reputation.
The good news for Republicans is that they have over a year until the 2014 elections. The bad news is that the Republicans have over a year to think to themselves "gee, how else can we make ourselves less popular than the bubonic plague," come up with answers, and then merrily set about implementing them--to the shock and delight of Democrats everywhere. I for one have no doubt that Republicans will rise to the occasion.
To the extent that congressional Republicans are able to get themselves out of the political jam they have created for themselves, it may be because of the efforts of Paul Ryan, who doubtless will be considered a RiNO and an apostate in short order for actually trying to be responsible instead of doing something crazy like urging default on the debt, or working to get the GOP's approval ratings in the single digits.
Of course, if congressional Republicans wanted a blueprint on how to act halfway intelligent, they might have listened to Megan McArdle. The following excerpt revolves around a point I have tried to make myself:
The shutdown is eclipsing the horrifyingly inept rollout of the federal exchanges. Republicans should be basking in schadenfreude while a grief-stricken administration watches its poll numbers plunge. Instead, Obama and his deputies are getting front-page stories every day where they get to claim to be the grown-ups in the room. Again, I don’t care whether this is because the mainstream media is biased, unless you have a negotiation scenario where the MSM disappears at the stroke of midnight and is replaced by the staff of the National Review and the Daily Caller.
To amplify McArdle's point, the GOP could have spent time chortling over the fact that only five people in Iowa have signed up for Obamacare. No, that's not a typo; only five people in the entire state of Iowa have signed up for Obamacare. But, you know, God forbid that congressional Republicans should listen to reason, get themselves out of the line of fire, and let the storyline focus on all of the problems with the Obamacare rollout.
This is political malpractice at its worst. And it has been brought about by "thought leaders" on the right who wouldn't know a good thought if it confronted them and slapped them in the face. Whether activists on the right--both in and out of Congress--actually genuinely believed that it would be a good idea to shut the government down and play chicken with the debt ceiling over unrealistic negotiating demands, or whether those activists knew that this would be a disaster, but felt that it would profit them to curry favor with the Tea Party, there needs to be a serious examination on the right regarding the kind of leadership it has been saddled with. Specifically, anyone who argued that the shutdown strategy and threats of not raising the debt ceiling were good ideas needs to be ousted from any position of leadership on the right. It is high time for the grownups to take charge. As things stand right now, the GOP's/right's brain trust is short on brains, and shouldn't be afforded any trust whatsoever.