Who Will People Blame for the Government Shutdowns?
As of the time of this writing, the messy politics that drive Congress seem to be pointing toward a long-term spending bill that will last several years, avoiding a government shutdown on February 8th, less than a month since that last one that began January 22nd, 2018. That one ended two days later as Democrats backed down and saw their approval numbers drop.
That was the short-term result. By about 1%, a Quinnipiac University Connecticut, poll found that 32% of voters blamed Democrats vs. 31% that blamed Republicans. Another poll conducted by Politico found the same difference, 35% to 34% respectively.
While these numbers may indicate a losing Democratic party, that isn’t the case. As the 2018 midterm elections begin to pick up the pace, both parties are looking at their chances of being elected.
Democrats went into the government shutdown on January 22nd hoping that Republicans and Trump would be blamed for what happened over a period of time. Historically, a government shutdown usually resulted in the party in power getting most of the blame not immediately, but over several months as both parties attempt to exert influence over public opinion. That has not always been the case.
The aftermath of the Government Shutdown of 1990, which occurred due to a disagreement on a deficit-reduction package, resulted in the minority party, Republicans, taking the blame. Highly televised, the event made it clear that party division within Republicans caused the shutdown despite the Senate and House Democratic majorities.
Due to the very public nature of the shutdown, Bush took the blame as the American people realized that he backed down on his promise for no new taxes. House Republicans were criticized because the shutdown was viewed as incredibly unnecessary.
Fast forward to the first government shutdown of 2018, and we see a similar scenario. Democrats shut down the government because no legislation passed on DACA, a move considered unnecessary and seen as an example of the party cares more about foreigners than the American people.
However, that’s not the full story. President Trump came out on February 6th, 2018 and suggested a government shutdown over the fact that no new legislation has been passed to crack down on illegal immigration.
Trump has done something never seen before in the history of the U.S. Government. A President, who has no control over the actions of Congress in most scenarios, is calling for a shutdown over legislation he vows to pass.
A historic move from a President that seems increasingly polarizing may result in a change in public perception as to who is blamed for the government shutdown. While special circumstances can result in the minority party being blamed, such as the 1990 and 2018 shutdowns, Trump may have immediately flipped the long-term result.
Democrats now have ammunition to use publicly against the President while Republicans distance themselves from the statements. The action can be easily twisted into a narrative that Trump’s divisive presidency and political values are the sole reason for the first shutdown and the next ones that may come after that.