Let me let you in on a little secret. Among the bluster and drama of the looming potential shutdown, nearly none of it has to do with legitimate arguments about spending and policy. Most of the fights and talking points have everything to do with the election in a little more than nine months.
Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are advocating for a short-term bill to keep government operational with a six year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP.) That gives the GOP campaign arms two bullets to shoot at Democrats who vote no this fall—that they voted for a shutdown AND against health care coverage for poor children.
Democrats, on the other hand, are making their fall message, and all messaging, “Trump, Trump, Trump.” They’re insisting on fixing the Dreamers program, known as DACA, though they all probably know deep down it doesn’t really belong in a government funding bill. They’re hopeful that a shutdown would be blamed on an unpopular President and help their chances of winning back the House and Senate in November.
The politics are going to be based on the media reaction. Democrats are sure they will get the media on their side to blame Trump, Ryan, and McConnell for the shutdown. Republicans hope they can use Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and other friendly sources to keep their base, and enough independent voters, to pin the closure on Democrats.
In the end, it comes down to who blinks first.
Patrick Pfingsten is an award-winning journalist, political consultant, and PR expert. You can find him on Twitter @pfingsten1 or email him at email@example.com.