John A. Tures: Why GOP loses shutdown polls

October 7, 2013 

There's probably enough blame to spread around for both political parties for any government shutdown. But Republicans will get most of the blame, regardless. Here's why.

Most GOP loyalists will conclude any blame they get is because of "the media." But that's not the case. Media bias has been overstated in elections, as other researchers and I have found in studies (see my column from Election Day 2012 for details). Even if I'm wrong, it doesn't explain why Republicans win half of the elections. If there were that much media bias, the GOP should lose each election. And Republicans clearly don't.

Republicans could also blame "RINOs" or moderates. But there are so few left in the party that such arguments ring hollow.

The problem is one of inconsistency. It's hard to spend nearly every day railing against the government, and then convince the American people that you really were against a government shutdown and that the pro-government Democrats wanted Washington closed.

On Fox News Sunday, GOP Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California insisted that "we are not shutting the government down."

According to the Associated Press, House Speaker John Boehner said "If the Senate stalls until Monday afternoon instead of working today, it would be an act of breathtaking arrogance by the Senate Democratic leadership. They will be deliberately bringing the nation to the brink of a government shutdown."

Of course, one reason the Senate "stalled" was that marathon filibuster by GOP Texas Senator Ted Cruz against Obamacare. He spent hours reading everything, including Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham," something comedian Jon Stewart quipped involved "not liking something one hasn't tried."

Cruz blamed Sen. Harry Reid for the mess. I agree that Reid is partially responsible. After all, Cruz negotiated the details with his famous filibuster speech with Reid. Cruz was envious of Sen. Rand Paul's famous filibuster against drones over the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director. Paul leads Cruz by a 6:1 margin in a straw poll. Sen. Reid wanted Cruz to be the darling of conservatives because he thinks Cruz would be a terrible GOP nominee. It's a terrible Faustian bargain.

But we know that regardless of how people feel about Obamacare (some opposition to it comes from liberals who want more government involvement) they oppose shutting down the government over defunding Obamacare by a 3-1 margin in a CNBC poll.

That's why several Republican senators, Bill O'Reilly and Karl Rove have warned House Republicans that a government shutdown would be dangerous. When you refer to government as "the problem" and your supporters write columns that insist a government shutdown wouldn't be so bad, it is hard to convince Americans that you really want the government open and fully funded at its present levels, as some in the GOP are claiming.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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