What Good Can Come of the Shutdown?
Conservative observers lay out possible scenarios.



How can this shutdown end well? What is an acceptable solution? What can we learn from here? National Review Online asked some political observers and vets for their insights.

David French
Will the so-called shutdown end well for Republicans? In the short term, it’s hard to see it ending well for anyone. Both sides are getting their share of public blame (though with Republicans admittedly getting more), and it’s impossible to see any kind of grand bargain or other game-changing deal emerging when the shutdown ends. There will, of course, be a round of Beltway score-counting, which the bulk of the voting public will largely ignore.

However, as the Obama administration maintains its defiant posture, what, precisely, remains of its agenda? Republican aggressiveness has caused President Obama to redefine victory as merely maintaining the status quo. That’s a strange definition of success for a president less than one year removed from a hard-fought reelection triumph.

The shutdown will end, a marginally acceptable deal will be reached, but two key images will endure: one of a president with nothing to offer but a tenacious defense of his failing health-care reforms, and the other of a federal government so intent on preserving its privileges that it will actually spend money to harm the public it allegedly serves.

For Democrats, is that what victory looks like?

— David French is a lawyer, writer, and veteran of the Iraq War. 

Henry Olsen
Thinking about this politically, conservatives need to keep their eyes on the prize — keeping the House majority while shifting it to the right. That means understanding who your audience is.

The House majority rests on Republicans’ keeping 18 of the 33 congressional districts represented by Republicans that Obama carried in 2008 or 2012 and that he won on the average margin from both elections (for politigeeks, I am looking at congressional districts with a Cook PVI of R+3 or less). These seats have one of two characteristics: They either come from the Northeast, the D.C. suburbs, or the Midwest (22); or they have significant concentrations of blacks or Hispanics (9). (Two Washington-state seats — Reichert and Herrera-Beutler, seats in suburban Seattle and suburban Portland — also make the list.)

A successful outcome, therefore, must be one that satisfies both the base and swing voters in districts with safe seats.

What can trigger that outcome? We don’t know. It is highly unlikely, however, that we’ll get there if we follow the course we are on, where the only acceptable outcome is total Democratic capitulation.

It defies common sense to think that these voters, who already are open to Democratic appeals and who are not part of the GOP base, would be happy to go to the mat to defund Obamacare. Most polls show these voters want the two sides to come together and compromise.

To successfully paint the Democrats as the closed-minded party, House Republicans would need to publicly offer a menu of items to negotiate that bear some relevance to funding government, and it would need to be short of the total defunding or even the delay of Obamacare. However, doing this would enrage the base, something Obama and Reid know. But the Democrats’ intransigence is daring Boehner to do just that.

The only way out of this impasse is for the leaders of the base to think through what measure of victory short of unconditional surrender they will accept. The longer this impasse continues without finding such an alternative, the more intransigent Democrats will become as they perceive the swing voters they need to retake the House slowly coming to their side.

We can’t expect to offset these potential losses with gains from Dems sitting in GOP seats. The reps from the two most Republican seats — McIntyre and Matheson — are already voting with the GOP on the defunding/shutdown bills, and the others save one (Murphy, in Florida’s 18th congressional district) represent districts with the same characteristics as those that have vulnerable GOP seats.

— Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.