If the Federal Government Falls in the Woods . . .

As the federal government shut down last Tuesday, the National Park Service began sending directives to several states urging them to close their parks.  Wisconsin refused the request, keeping the Kettle Moraine, Devil’s Lake, and Interstate State Parks open, pointing out that nearly 82 percent of the funding for those parks comes from state sources.

“I really don’t think it is a defiance, but fulfilling our obligations,” said Cathy Stepp, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “We are doing everything we can with social media, radio outlets, and news to get the word out that we’re open. The calls are coming in like crazy — people are planning to come here with camping trips every year, weddings, reunions.”

Today, the Obama administration said it will allow some states to keep their parks open if state funds are used to do so.  In states like Arizona and Utah, federal parks (such as the Grand Canyon) are major tourist draws, and keeping them closed means economic disaster for local businesses – many of which have offered to supplement the costs of keeping them open. (Closing some federal lands may even violate federal law.)

Wisconsin and others states’ disobedience must have been frustrating for President Obama’s supporters, who need the country to turn into a burning, post-apocalyptic dystopia to reinforce their case that Republicans really are terrorists. (Several other have made this point here at NRO in the past two days.)

But a funny thing happened on the way to America becoming a Mad Max–style post-government wasteland: The nation’s citizens seemed to get on with their lives.  As was the case with the sequester or Y2K, the political doomsday preppers are still waiting to crack open their ten-year-old jars of pickled eggs.

And it certainly hasn’t escaped notice that it’s Republican governors like Scott Walker that are keeping their states open for business. He actually blamed both parties for the government shutdown. “I think not just in Wisconsin but in states across the country there’s a lot of governors and lawmakers in both parties who wish the folks in Washington in both parties would act more like the states and less like our nation’s capital,” he said last Tuesday.

As I wrote over the weekend, history tells us we’ll be just fine after the shutdown is over. For now, Democrats need to make it seem like the stoppage is pouring sand in the gears of the economy and disrupting our everyday lives.

That’s why departments first cut the things that most affect everyday Americans. When the shutdown happened, the Department of Defense announced it was cancelling the Navy–Air Force football game. )The game went on, funded by unappropriated money.) 

Attempts to shut down war memorials went famously unheeded by the brave veterans visiting them – as if men who have stared down the barrel of a German Karabiner were going to be intimidated by a plastic barricade. The ocean was closed. Michelle Obama even said the shutdown would curtail her tweeting, which somehow failed to incite riots in the heartland.

It’s the same reason as why, when state departments of transportation want more funding, they don’t delay obscure projects, they begin closing DMVs. State university systems don’t cut administrative costs or eliminate obscure departments; they threaten to limit the number of students they can accept in the next year. Walker’s predecessor in Wisconsin, Democratic governor Jim Doyle, once urged more funding for the state Department of Natural Resources by threating to eliminate the program that scrapes dead deer of the side of the state’s roads – trying to associate Republican budget cuts with literal carnage.

The last thing Democrats need is for the country to get comfortable during the shutdown. So the horror stories and manufactured inconveniences will keep coming, but the very fiber of the American character should be enough to remain strong until Michelle Obama tweets again.

— Christian Schneider is a columnist with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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