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Lessons from the Shutdown [OPINION]

Government Shutdown Forces Closures In Nation's Capitol
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Now that the latest manufactured crisis is over, it behooves the American voter, and Republicans in particular, to sort through the consequences in the hopes of learning a thing or two. For if we do not, the stage is set for a repeat performance of this tragic farce early next year.

First, this whole endeavor never had to happen. Even with only a Schoolhouse Rock level understanding of the American political system you could see that Republicans simply didn’t have the votes to clear both houses of Congress, let alone a Presidential veto.

They were counting on Democrats not having the stomachs for the political pain the shutdown would cause. Recent history may have given them good reason to believe that Democrats would bend, but that doesn’t legitimize the hostage taking approach.

Second, the wrong people are paying for this mess. The shutdown caused real pain to the economy, which is estimated at $24 billion in lost GDP. Everyday people who had no part in egging this on found themselves paying part of the price in ways that ranged from small inconveniences, like disrupted travel plans, to significant loss of income, as with the furloughed workers of private sector contracting firms who won’t be reimbursed because they are not federal employees. Some of these people are in fairly low-paying jobs and can hardly afford to miss a paycheck.

Compare that to the Tea Party members of the House and the Senate, who deserve the lion’s share of the blame but will not forfeit a nickel of their bloated salaries for all the unnecessary trouble that they caused.

Third, when the media does its job, the American people can see through the spin. Despite the rather pathetic attempts by Fox News and the regular suspects on right-wing radio to paint the shutdown as the Democrats’ fault, polls show that while no one escaped unscathed, Republicans were rightfully blamed by the majority of American voters.

This is in no small part thanks to many of the mainstream media outlets going beyond their usual “balanced” approach of allowing Republican talking points to get equal time with the actual facts of the situation. To be sure, there were still some examples of blame being aimed at both sides, but these came mainly from people who are so committed to convincing people that Washington is broken, that they can’t be bothered to look into who exactly is doing the breaking.

Last, some people will never learn. Despite the fact that whole effort earned Republicans exactly nothing but lower poll numbers, Tea Partiers are celebrating the Senators and Representatives that pushed for the shutdown, and raising money to create primary challenges for the more moderate Republicans that refused to drive the economy over the cliff of a debt default.

Recent polls show favorability ratings for the Tea Party at thirty percent and falling. True believers might not be able to grasp that it takes a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress to override a Presidential veto, but you can bet that GOP strategists understand that recasting the Republican Party with all Tea Party approved candidates is a recipe for losing the House and long term national irrelevance.

The next few months will show if sensible Republicans can come up with a plan to sit on their Tea Party colleagues and actually manage a budget compromise with Senate Democrats. If the so-called moderates in the Republican House again allow the Tea Party crazies to stomp their feet and hold their breath until they get their way, another shutdown showdown is inevitable.

Tea Partiers may be incapable of piecing two and two together, but the majority of American voters doesn’t suffer from the same malady. Now we get to see if the Republican leadership is capable of learning from its own mistakes.

Why Democrats Won’t Negotiate

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gossman and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this radio station, Results Radio or Townsquare Media.

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