The Corner

On Not Repeating the Mistakes of 1995

Ezra Klein tries to game out the coming fights over Obamacare:

So what happens if Republicans won’t pass any appropriations bills that fund the health-care law and President Obama won’t sign any appropriations bills that don’t? A government shutdown, of course. And there are reasons for both sides to fear that outcome.

Republicans remember Newt Gingrich shutting down the government in 1994 and losing the subsequent public-relations battle. His overreach in that effort broke the GOP’s momentum.

Ezra gets a pretty important date wrong here. The government shutdown occurred in late 1995, not 1994. Had it occurred in 1994, it would have preceded the Oklahoma City bombing, which affected the way many Americans felt about their relationship with the federal government. We forget how effectively Clinton linked the bombing to mainstream conservative views about the proper size and scope of the government, and how badly Gingrich fumbled the ball when he made the shutdown seem petty and personal by complaining about his relegation to the rear of Air Force One. I don’t think the GOP will or should force another government shutdown — actually, I think Ezra’s estimation of how this will play out is the most probable outcome — but if it comes to that, Republicans will be operating in a very different political environment from last time around.

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