Washington is erupting in a chorus of “I told you so’s” because of a new CNN poll headlined “Blame on GOP,” asserting congressional Republicans would be held at fault if the government shuts down.
Let’s talk about that.
First of all, here’s the information in the poll that is not making the headlines: 57 percent say they oppose Obamacare – up three points since May – compared to 38 percent who support it. Even independents oppose the law by 67-27 percent.
So Obama and the Democrats are seeking to enforce, without argument or negotiation, the most sweeping, society-altering legislation in nearly fifty years even though it’s down 19 points in the polls. Is that not “extremism,” as President Obama has put it to describe Republicans?
Now, in answer to the question, “If the federal government shuts down, do you think that Barack Obama or the Republicans in Congress would be more responsible for that?”, 46 percent said “Republicans in Congress,” 36 percent said “Obama,” and 13 percent said “both.”
First of all, let’s note that the question doesn’t mention Obamacare in any way. Nor does it offer the option “Democrats in Congress.” In fact, as a procedural matter, Obama is not technically shutting down the government. The House bill that funds the government but delays Obamacare for a year is never going to get to him because Democrats in the Senate will block it.
So with the action happening solely in Congress, many who might have chosen Obama if given more information about the role of Obamacare in this fight, or chosen the congressional Democrats if that were an option, may have defaulted to “Republicans in Congress.”
Finally, at 46 percent, the “Republicans in Congress” is down a full five points from the 51 percent it was at just three weeks ago, suggesting Ted Cruz’s filibuster may have had an effect on people’s opinions. Other polls have shown the blame to be more equally shared. And even in this poll, independents are evenly divided – with 39 percent pointing the finger at Republicans and 38 percent at Obama.
What’s more, if you view this through the general unpopularity of Congress as a whole, “Republicans in Congress” are getting pretty good numbers.
It’s not at all clear to me that Obama and the Democrats aren’t going to suffer politically for a shutdown. It’s a callow approach to think history always repeats itself, as is the general assumption in Washington, and that Republicans will suffer the same fate they did in the 1990s when the last shutdown occurred. We must learn from history, but history does not always repeat itself.
And either way, the public in this fight is being educated by the likes of Ted Cruz about the flaws in the law and being informed that conservatives would do way with it. That is the most significant thing going on here.