Who to blame for shutdown? What does it matter?

If there’s a government shutdown, much of the news coverage of it will be more about the politics of it than the effect it has on people. That’s a casualty of the horse race mentality of Washington and the nation’s press corps.

Who will the American public blame is the wrong question to ask, senior commentator Jake Novak says on CNBC because history shows they won’t take it out on anyone on Election Day.

The 16-day shutdown in 2013 was a “disaster” for Republicans, Novak says. So the American people handed Republicans “not only broader control of the House but a majority in the Senate for the first time in six years.”

In a poll during the shutdown, 53% said they blamed Republicans. Twenty-nine percent blamed Democrats.

So why did Republicans get a firmer control of government? Because at the time, President Obama had a high disapproval rating.

Voters tend not to remember shutdowns; they remember how they think a president is doing.

Says Novak…

But what about those two government shutdowns in late 1995 and then early 1996 that the Republican Congress also took the blame for? Didn’t that lead to major political punishment for the GOP, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole?

That’s not really what happened. In the 1996 congressional elections, the GOP actually won a net gain of two seats in the Senate and only lost two seats in the House. Picking up a greater Senate majority is much more valuable to any political party, especially if the only tradeoff is losing two seats out of 435 total in the House. And yes, Dole lost to Clinton in the presidential election but blaming Dole’s loss on the government shutdown is a colossal stretch.

But what about the markets? Don’t they take a big hit when the government shuts down?


Novak, a conservative, doesn’t see a lot of downside to a government shutdown other than “inconvenience.”

Meanwhile, a poll from the Washington Post, released this afternoon, says 48% of those surveyed blame President Trump and Republicans for the possible shutdown. Only 28% blame Democrats. Those numbers are stunningly similar to the 2013 poll.