“If you’re a Republican in Congress, you’ve learned that when we shut down the government, we lose. Now that we’ve had some success in avoiding another shutdown, our fortunes seem to be rising, so maybe we don’t want big things to happen.”You know you've hit bottom when you think avoiding a shutdown is an accomplishment about which to be proud. In any normal time, people would laugh at you if you said you deserved credit as true leader because you voted against a catastrophic default, but that's exactly what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing now, saying that he deserves praise for folding his bluff to block an increase in the debt limit. But now, people (wrongly) give him credit for not actually following through on his threat to wreak economic havoc on America.
And this mindset is exactly where House Republicans think they need to be in order to hang onto their majority. For example:
“We’re not going to make ourselves the story,” Boehner said in a speech to his colleagues Tuesday, before moving to pass a “clean” debt-ceiling extension — one without strings attached.Raising the debt limit should be a humdrum occurrence. Not something that you tout as a great act of leadership. But as this quote suggests, Republicans really do seem content to run on the "we didn't do anything else that was really awful, besides that one awful thing we did" platform:
“We don’t have 218 votes in the House for the big issues, so what else are we going to do?” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), an ally of House Speaker John A. Boehner. “We can do a few things on immigration and work on our principles, but in terms of real legislating, we’re unable to get in a good negotiating position.”But here's the thing. Republicans have refused to extend emergency unemployment benefits. They've refused to raise the minimum wage. They've refused to pass any sort of jobs bill. They've refused to do anything on immigration reform. And even if they don't shut the government down again, that doesn't change the fact that they did shut it down—and that their refusal to move forward on anything else is reflection of that same mindset, tempered only slightly by the politically motivated fear of certain defeat.
What this means is that 2014 is shaping up to be a different year than 2010. For Republicans, 2010 was all about riding the tea party wave. But now that the tea party is broadly unpopular, 2014 is all about keeping the tea party under the radar as much as possible. But it's still there. And it's still a big political vulnerability.