The Shutdown Probably Won’t Kill the GOP in 2014

A supporter of Organizing for Action holds a sign critical of the Tea Party’s roll in the U.S. government shutdown.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Two interesting pieces of shutdown reading this morning. One is Nate Silver breaking his silence to scold pundits for overhyping the electoral consequences of the budget shutdown and the other is the NBC/WSJ poll indicating that the shutdown is killing Republicans with the public.

It’s worth reading these things in conjunction because I think it’s worth trying to really understand why even big events like a government shutdown probably won’t drive the 2014 midterms. The reason is that conservative opinion leaders will (probably) freak out about these polls and the GOP will (probably) more or less back down and by 2014 we’ll (probably) be back to normal where all the people who think abortion should be illegal vote Republican and all the people who think it should be legal vote Democratic.


But today that’s not what’s happening. Today what’s happening is the GOP is doing things that are a bit outside the grid of ordinary politics and its moving the needle in a big way. The political system has a lot of self-correcting elements and strong incentives for Republicans not to persist in this course and then for the 50 percent or so of people who basically agree with Republicans about public policy to forgive and forget. But that happens precisely because people don’t dismiss these event-driven polling spikes as irrelevant. They adjust.