‘Animal House’ shutdown could be disastrous for GOP
By John Podhoretz
October 16, 2013 | 8:55pm
Call it the “Animal House” shutdown.
At the end of that seminal American comedy about a rowdy fraternity, the charismatic Otter makes an impassioned speech to his fellows about their enemies on campus:
“We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!”
To which his friend Bluto replies, “We’re just the guys to do it.”
Congratulations, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, the two conservative senators who conceived the shutdown strategy. You are now the Otter and Bluto of American politics.
Like them, you are able and clever. Unlike them, you were, and are, apparently unaware that your shutdown gesture was “really futile and stupid.”
In this case, these two former Supreme Court clerks — one of the most intellectually challenging tasks in American life — have given flesh to George Orwell’s warning that some ideas are so stupid, only an intellectual could believe in them.
Over the 16 days of the shutdown, absolutely nothing was accomplished when it comes to public policy, except, perhaps, the further degradation of the Republican Party’s brand.
Apologists for Cruz and Lee say they drew attention to ObamaCare. This is nothing short of demented. ObamaCare has been pretty much the sole subject of Republican domestic- policy politics over the past three years. It didn’t need them to call attention to it.
If anything, as it turns out, they drew attention away from it.
Had they not created the shutdown, the political discussion in the United States these past two weeks would have been entirely dedicated to the disastrous launch of ObamaCare — something so disastrous, in fact, that liberal journalists have been unable to avoid the subject and have instead taken to whining about it.
But no. Instead, we spent the two weeks before the launch watching Ted Cruz rally the Republican faithful with a fantasy scenario in which the public would stage an uprising against ObamaCare and force a bunch of Democratic senators to vote to defund it.
Well, that didn’t happen.
But once the conservative base became convinced the defunding of ObamaCare was a possibility, the Republican House found it impossible not to join in the really futile and stupid gesture. Shutdown ensued.
Well, that’s over with. And maybe the damage will not be very great. But doing really futile and stupid things is never a good idea, and for a political party, it is disastrous.
Such behavior convinces people who are not firmly fixed in your party’s corner that you don’t care about the good working order of the United States, that you’re only out to satisfy your own ideological fantasies, and that you’re actually unserious.
Listen: Not enough people are voting for Republicans. That’s why the GOP has lost the popular vote in five out of the last six national elections. What happened over the past two weeks will only harm the effort to convince those who can be convinced to vote Republican that doing so is wise and prudent.
Clearly, it’s time to give Cruz and Lee and the people who follow them the legendary special punishment meted out by the evil college president to the “Animal House” boys:
Double secret probation for you.