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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Test of Theories

As Washington prepares for an ever-more-probable government shutdown over failure to reach agreement on a continuing resolution for current-year appropriations, Ezra Klein offers a useful observation about what a shutdown would mean, and why it could happen despite pious talk (from Democrats, anyway) about compromise:

Republicans and Democrats, it seems, govern rather differently. Republicans are proving themselves willing to do what liberals long wanted the Obama administration to do: Play hardball. Refuse compromise. Risk severe consequences that they’ll attempt to blame on their opponent. The Obama administration’s answer to this was always that it was important to be seen as the reasonable actor in the drama, to occupy some space known as the middle, and to avoid, so much as possible, the appearance of dramatic overreach. This is as close as we’re likely to come to a test of that theory. In two separate cases, Republicans have chosen a hardline position and are refusing significant compromise, even at the risk of terrible consequences. Will the public turn on them for overreach? Rally behind their strength and conviction? Or not really care one way or the other, at least by the time the next election rolls around?

It may very well be, of course, that the GOP’s commitment to a hard-line position makes the Democratic position somewhat irrelevant; Democratic offers to compromise–or for that matter, a countervailing Democratic hard line–won’t move them, or necessarily influence public opinion, either. But how the two parties extricate themselves from a shutdown–short of abject surrender–could be pretty important.

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