The Democrats’ Trial-Run Shutdown: Have They Had Enough?

The Briefing, Vol. VI, Issue 5

This week:

  • Democrats get a trial run on shutting down the government
  • #MeToo scandals extend to Republicans
  • Romney to announce this week

Upcoming primaries: Here is a quick look at upcoming primary elections for offices to be elected in 2018, through the end of May. Where appropriate, highly important or competitive statewide races are identified:

Texas … March 6 (runoff May 22)
Illinois … March 20 (IL-GOV, Democratic primary)
Indiana … May 8 (IN-SEN, Republican primary)
North Carolina … May 8 (runoff July 17)
Ohio … May 8 (OH-GOV, primary in both parties)
West Virginia … May 8 (WV-SEN, Republican primary)
Idaho … May 15 (ID-GOV, contested Republican primary)
Nebraska … May 15
Oregon … May 15
Pennsylvania … May 15
Arkansas … May 22 (runoff June 19)
Georgia … May 22 (runoff July 24)
Kentucky … May 22


Shutdown trial run: Democrats’ decision to shut down the government a week ago definitely proved to be an own-goal. They were blamed by everyone reputable, and that drove a lot of professional Democratic operatives over the edge.

Still, their politically bad decision is one that probably won’t bite them too badly. The thing to look for, rather, is what this says about the coming battle over funding the federal government.

As we explained, there wasn’t any way to sugarcoat Democrats’ culpability for this shutdown. As a result, even normally sympathetic mainstream media outlets did not sugarcoat it.

There was never going to be much of a public memory over a shutdown that didn’t even last beyond the weekend. But the incident warned us ahead of time what things might look like when the next shutdown showdown occurs. Democrats have had a useful trial run in that they learned something: They cannot necessarily count on the media air cover they might have enjoyed in past shutdowns. With foreknowledge that they will likely be blamed when it happens, they have the opportunity to correct course. Even so, they will still face pressure from their left-wing “resistance” base to avoid any sort of cooperation with Trump.

Trump has shown his cards on immigration, and this puts even more pressure on Democrats. He wants a deal where he gets nearly all the funding he’ll need for the border wall, in exchange for legalization of roughly 1.8 million so-called “Dreamers,” and he wants it all tied up to a must-pass bill to fund the government. Will Democrats shut it down again to avoid this? Or will they take the offered amnesty for 1.8 million and claim victory?

Republican scandals: Democrats certainly got the worse end of sexual harassment

Al Franken (AP Photo)

scandals when these rose to prominence in recent months. The resignation of John Conyers and Al Franken, and the forced retirement of Ruben Kihuen, impressed that upon everyone immediately. But now it seems Republicans are starting to come into their own problems with what is and always has been a truly bipartisan problem.

But in an election year when Democrats enjoy all the advantages of being currently out of power, those resignations and retirements are unlikely to have electoral consequences

Republican Reps. Patrick Meehan and Blake Farenthold are now retiring — Meehan after the revelation that he voted against repealing Obamacare just to impress a female staffer with whom he apparently wanted to start an inappropriate relationship. Combine that with the purportedly Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and his need to resign after asking his mistress to have an abortion, and Republicans are starting to rack up their own serious character problem.

It reminds one of 2006, an election that Republicans lost quite badly. Recall that in that election cycle, Republicans lost in part because of the Iraq War and other structural defects, but their largest single problem was scandal. This was the era of the K Street Project, Jack Abramoff, and, to top it all off, Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. taking an unnatural interest in congressional pages. There was a palpable sense that they had it coming when they lost, and even that the voting public had not so much chosen their opponents as it had rejected them.

Are Republicans about to repeat history? Their best chance to avoid it will be, as the party apparatus already recognizes, to sell the public on their tax reform bill and bet big on the benefits it is supposed to provide over the next 10 months. They are counting on a booming economy rescuing them from the worst.

So far, the jobs, unemployment, and economic growth numbers are quite promising, as is the stock market. But they’ll have to be much more impressive to save Republicans’ fortunes in an environment where Democratic voters are very energized and President Trump suffers from great unpopularity.

Senate 2016

Utah: Mitt Romney, R, is expected to announce his Senate bid formally this week. And if there were any plans among the party elders to shut him out (probably not), they will not avail in the new legal environment. Romney plans to qualify for the primary ballot through the newly available path of gathering signatures. Romney is overwhelmingly favored for the nomination and to enter the Senate 24 years after he first ran against Sen. Ted Kennedy, D.

Wisconsin: The conservative dogfight between state Sen. Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson continues as Reince Priebus chooses to endorse Vukmir. The endorsement was noteworthy not just for the plain fact, but also because he doubts the sincerity of Nicholson’s conversion from Democrat to Republican.

Meanwhile, Republicans’ ability to mount a serious challenge to Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D, has fallen into some question. Democrats picked up a Republican and Trump-leaning state senate seat earlier this month, which Gov. Scott Walker called a wakeup call for his party. Democrats have not won many statewide races in Wisconsin since 2008, but Baldwin was one of the few candidates who did win — and against popular former Gov. Tommy Thompson, at that.