After almost four weeks of the shutdown of the federal government, we’re all asking one question: Who can possibly win from such an elongated and painful shutdown?
Of course, with no end in sight, or for loss of a better cliché, with no visible light at the end of the tunnel, we have to look back at past shutdowns to see what happened and who came out winning. There is, most importantly, the notorious Clinton vs. Gingrich shutdown/showdown.
The 1995 shutdown erupted after then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proposed widely criticized cuts on Medicare and Medicaid, and then-President Bill Clinton vetoed the continuing resolution that included those cuts.
When Gingrich was asked the reason for his impossible ultimatum, he replied that when he had gone with President Clinton to am Israeli Prime Minister’s funeral, Clinton hadn’t talked to him and had made him exit from the back of Air Force One. He later admitted it was petty, but the harm had been done.
That triggered another government shutdown later that year, that lasted into the next year (1996) and became the longest government shutdown in history.
The story surrounding that shutdown is the same: a Gingrich-Clinton rivalry that spun into a long shutdown. The shutdown began with public opinion on Gingrich’s side, and many thought (at the time) that Clinton should agree and just sign the budget resolution, for the good of the country.
Clinton disagreed, and was mortified by the idea of having to sign such a document. And so he waited, Gingrich waited, and the country waited. Soon enough, public support was waning for Gingrich and Clinton was starting to seem as the more rational negotiator. After more time passed, the public firmly backed Clinton, and Gingrich was forced to sign the deal, and with it, end his political career.
Another example is the 2013 Obamacare shutdown, which then-Speaker John Boehner initiated. The way it started was that Congressional Republicans had decided to end funding for Obamacare. However, the Senate decided not to approve the deal. And anyway, Obamacare was included in the essential payroll, rendering the resistance pointless. Once again, the President emerged victorious.
So if we are to learn anything from history, it would be that President Trump is, at least statistically, more likely to emerge the victor after the shutdown. He’s taken a first step after addressing the nation on television. Now all that remains is how Democrats will make their move.