Applying the “Rules” for Government Shutdown Crises to the Current Situation

There are two basic rules for government shut downs:

  1.  Congress gets blamed not the White House.
  2. Shutdowns are an opportunity to the Executive to demonstrate competence.

So, it is a reasonable question ask how these will apply this time around.

With respect to the blame game, the normal rule would be to blame Congress — and typically the majority party, which will be different from the President.  It is going to be really hard to pin the blame on minority democrats, and although ironically, their choices are driving all this.  But apart from this, the reason that the White House usually wins the messaging, and ultimately the substance, wars, is that it speaks with one voice.

So you can throw that out the window this time.  The messaging chaos, the internecine battles, and the constant leaking almost guarantee that the White House can not win this one, except with very narrow constituencies.

As to the  opportunity to demonstrate competence, note that I said “demonstrate,” not “achieve.”  Anyone who can see anything in the history of the last 100 days that suggests any competence to demonstrate — I have an infrastructure bill to build a new Brooklyn Bridge to sell you.

Much more likely is that the bureaucracy will not go out of its way to minimize harm — except to the most vulnerable, and those efforts will be undercut by those wearing the metal flag pins, and in turn the facts will be leaked.  It will be chaos.

The Democrats know all this, so they have no incentives to trade.  It could be a long shutdown.  What a way to celebrate 100 days, unless Republicans realize that a small set of relatively minor defeats is better than a very big one.

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