In my last post I speculated that all the publicity surrounding Paul Ryan’s budget proposal was going to heavily influence public perceptions of responsibility for the technically unrelated but thematically indistinguishable battle over current-year appropriations that seems headed towards a government shutdown. Basically, conservatives haven’t been able to curb their enthusiasm for Ryan’s radical proposal, so they are inadvertently helping Democrats (who frankly could use the help) in making the “shutdown” argument revolve around something tangible and scary: Ryan’s assault on Medicare and Medicaid.
There’s a straw in the wind in Washington today that shows how Republicans may be losing control of the spin over the appropriations battle. At a Tea Party rally aimed at keeping up the pressure for deeper spending cuts, this interchange transpired, as reported by TPM’s Ryan J. Reilly:
Minutes after the crowd that was assembled at an Americans for Prosperity-backed Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill on Wednesday broke out into chants of “shut it down,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claimed that the Tea Party doesn’t want the government to shut down and that Democrats would unfairly blame the movement if it did.
“They want to blame it on you,” Bachmann said. But there was a large part of the crowd willing to step up and take the blame.
So TV viewers tonight are going to see Republicans ecstatic about Ryan’s radical budget and Tea Partiers–despite the tips-from-the-coach offered by Bachmann–chanting for a government shutdown. Sure, most rank-and-file Republicans will see nothing wrong with this scenario, but elsewhere, the public is likely to deduce that the “savings” congressional GOPers are demanding are about something more fundamental than subsidies for Big Bird or the exact level of cuts.