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Don’t let the media blame Democrats for the looming shutdown
Media pundits demand that Democratic grownups rescue GOP children to make government work
The Washington news media have a tendency to treat Democrats as grown-ups and Republicans as misbehaving children.
That’s understandable when the Republicans in Congress include mischief makers like George Santos and Lauren Boebert and the Democratic side features policy wonks like Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse.
But when the news media raise the bar for Democrats and lower it for Republicans, it’s only natural for them to take the next step and blame Democrats for not preventing the House’s Republican majority from driving the government into a ditch.
Look for that kind of spin as the federal funding deadline approaches at midnight Friday, with a partial government shutdown looming. Last week, House Republicans canceled votes on two spending bills because of their own chaos, and Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas said of the House GOP: "I don't think the Lord Jesus himself could manage this group.”
Enter media pundits, who will no doubt demand that the Democrats do a better job of babysitting the brats across the aisle, forcing them to eat their broccoli or letting them stay up past midnight to get their way.
Why do I predict that? Because the pundits have done that repeatedly in recent months.
Back in January, Kevin McCarthy was so desperate to become House speaker that he endured 15 votes and finally won by giving far-right extremists tremendous leverage, setting the stage for further Republican-on-Republican mayhem.
In late September, the GOP radicals seemed to want a government shutdown in order to sabotage the Biden economy, show their own power and placate Donald Trump, who posted on social media, “UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN!” But savvier politicians like McCarthy knew a shutdown would be toxic for Republicans in the 2024 elections. So he cut a deal with Democrats and a stopgap spending bill passed the House, largely with Democratic support.
That led to a far-right Republican revolt that cost McCarthy the speakership. Which some observers blamed on … Democrats. In fact, the Democrats did what the minority party generally does –- let the majority party pick the speaker. Yet Michael Bloomberg wrote an opinion piece headlined, “Democrats Share the Blame for McCarthy’s Fall.“ And the New York Times reported: “Mainstream Republicans are furious that Democrats did not help rescue Mr. McCarthy by casting a handful of votes that might have saved his job.”
Two problems with that spin. The idea of “mainstream Republicans” is as implausible as the concept of “intellectual snails.” The GOP is a far-right extremist party. Second, McCarthy was a dishonest leader who seemed to take orders from Trump, who is criminally charged with trying to steal the 2020 election. Would it have been good politics – or good government – for Democrats to fall in with McCarthy? No.
After Republicans ousted McCarthy, they fumbled around and failed to choose a new speaker for three weeks. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-AL, called on the Democrats to rescue them and complained that “they haven’t offered jack.” Democrats reminded the Republicans that the House GOP held the majority, and if any self-styled Republican moderates wanted to talk, they should come forward.
The Washington Post Editorial Board chimed in with a crackpot editorial headlined, “Democrats should help elect a credible Republican speaker.” Amid severe criticism, WaPo took the rare step of amending the editorial with a clarification stating: “A previous version of this editorial did not make clear the conditions under which Democrats could reasonably support a Republican speaker nominee. This version has been updated.”
Updated, but not really fixed.
House Republicans finally voted unanimously to install Mike Johnson as speaker even though he’s a religious extremist who opposes women’s and LGBTQ rights and was a co-conspirator in Trump’s plot to stay in office after he lost.
Not a single Democrat voted for Johnson, but that didn’t stop WaPo opinion writer Megan McArdle from penning a piece headlined, “Republicans and Democrats share blame for the speaker fiasco.”
Now another government shutdown deadline looms, with the Republicans in the driver’s seat. Will they give up the wheel? Nope. Should the Democrats grab the wheel? That’s not how democracy works. Should the Democrats help the Republicans drive to God-knows-where to do God-knows-what? Nope.
But media pundits will demand it.
That’s because Democrats have a history of solving Republican problems. Bill Clinton fixed George H.W. Bush’s economy. Barack Obama fixed George W. Bush’s economy. Joe Biden helped the nation recover from the financial shock of Donald Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic, and many economic indicators are now strong.
It’s a logical impulse to ask for a Democratic rescue. But the solution is not to badger the Democrats into helping the Republicans implement bad policies. It’s to pressure GOP radicals into doing their jobs. And there’s another solution, too: Vote out the Republicans next November.