The Corner

Politics & Policy

Democrats Learn the Hard Way that Americans Don’t Like Government Shutdowns

In response to Long Live the Nation-State

As noted this morning, Red State Democratic senators didn’t like the shutdown, and the polling didn’t look that great, either. Most Americans may want to see the DACA kids no longer at risk for deportation, but they’re unconvinced that goal is worth a government shutdown. Apparently this morning Democrats looked at the polling numbers and realized the public sentiment was shifting to “a pox on both your houses.”

The Huffington Post lays out what the Democrats think they have won:

Democrats insisted they weren’t caving, even though they didn’t get what they wanted: an immediate vote on protections for undocumented young people often called Dreamers. But the deal gave them a way out of what could have been a politically damaging shutdown. The promise of a vote on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, although it could be reneged on, is something Democrats didn’t have before. It’s the first time Democrats received a firm deadline for a vote on an immigration bill. And if McConnell doesn’t follow through, Democrats will be able to use this promise to vote against the next spending bill and pin the blame on Republicans.

Having promised a vote on DACA, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should keep his word. 

But whether the Senate holds that vote or not, in three weeks, when this continuing resolution runs out, the basic political dynamic will be the same: Americans will still like DACA, but not enough to accept a government shutdown over it. Nothing will have changed,  except the Children’s Health Insurance Program will soon be funded for the next six years.

Not too long ago, the shoe was on the other foot. Obamacare was unpopular in 2013, and because of that, Senator Ted Cruz and other Congressional Republicans thought they could use a government shutdown as leverage to defund it before it was fully implemented. But Americans didn’t like seeing the government shut down in an attempt to stop Obamacare. For example, at the end of September 2013, a CBS News survey found that 39 percent of Americans approved of the health care law, but 51 percent disapproved. But only 19 percent said they were willing to shut down the government to stop funding for Obamacare. 

The bottom line is that most Americans don’t like government shutdowns, and will rarely find other political goals sufficient to justify them. They don’t like closed Smithsonians, delayed tax refunds, delayed processing for veterans benefits, furloughed civilian DoD employees, delayed passports, a shutdown of E-Verify, and all of the other inconveniences and problems that come with a government shutdown. 


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