Added video at right; see below for explanation.
It’s 1995 all over again, as Republican-induced government shutdowns are all the rage. Congressional Republicans are planning a shutdown in September if they don’t get their way on drilling, which looks to be their core electoral strategy going into November.
Here in California the possibility looms as Republicans show no sign of budging on the budget. Saturday is the deadline for adding propositions to the November ballot, and as most budget solutions proposed have involved going to voters – whether it’s Arnold’s lottery bonds, his sales tax plan, or the Republicans’ spending cap demands, the deadline becomes all-important:
Taking lottery and budget overhaul off the negotiating table could aggravate the already polarized budget debate between the governor and the Legislature, capitol observers say.
“If that happens, you’ll see this budget dug in and you’ll see (the longest impasse) ever. And that’s unfortunate,” said Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines from Clovis (Fresno County).
It’s likely that Republicans in California feel, as do their counterparts in DC, that a government shutdown (which a long budget delay would eventually produce) is a winning electoral strategy. The conventional wisdom is that it hurt Republicans in ’95 when they did it, blunting their upward momentum and eventually helping Clinton get re-elected in ’96 – but it also forced Clinton to accede to many of their demands, such as welfare reform, while doing nothing to threaten GOP control of the Congress. Clearly Republicans believe it’s a win-win – either the Dems cave on policy or the Dems lose at the ballot box.
Of course we’re already witnessing a government shutdown in slow motion. Arnold’s unnecessary mass firing of government workers has led to impacts on public services from the DMV to health care. The even more radical Republicans in the legislature would presumably be happy to do the same to government more broadly – since they don’t believe in public services, breaking them via a budget shutdown suits their ideological agenda nicely.
In that respect it’s worth noting that this isn’t just a budget-produced attitude. Republicans really do want the government to be dramatically scaled back, even though good public services are essential to our modern society. After Hurricane Katrina the Grover Norquist “drown government in a bathtub” philosophy seemed discredited, but Republicans continue to espouse it.
The best – and the only – response from Democrats is to recognize that the budget and the fall election campaign are now one in the same. Dems need to be aggressively framing Republicans as government-destroying nutjobs who would happily shut down schools and hospitals in order to accomplish a far-right agenda. If a shutdown did happen that would fulfill the prophecy and damage Republicans further.
Dems’ failure to take a campaign approach to the budget is partly responsible for the ongoing delay, since Republicans feel no pressure from the public to cut a deal. It’s time for Dems to treat this like a campaign and push back hard on the Republicans before they do further damage to our state.
UPDATE – As if on cue, the California Faculty Association has begun running “Flunk Republican” ads against Republicans in ADs 10, 30, 78 and 80. The ads are a perfect example of campaigning on the budget. Dems take note: make the Republicans pay for their demands for massive cuts.