Shutting down the shutdown and avoiding imminent default was not like Idris Elba in Pacific Rim “cancel[ing] the apocalypse.” Democrats making victory laps on the heads of irritated Republicans seems a bit premature, don’t you think? Talking point-fueled elation notwithstanding, the average person looking on won’t understand cheery partisan piston pumps when the $24 billion plus in damage is already done, not to mention the sting of a perennially uncertain political system. This wasn’t our proudest governing moment, unless governing by crisis is your thing.
Sure, it’s ended, but what’s the big deal when all you do is forestall the inevitable? What’s so victorious about buying more time, to James Bond it only to die another day? House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was right “not … to pin a rose on [it]” and perhaps her rank-and-file on down bragging about Democrats united need to hear it before publicly instigating salty conservatives gearing up for the next fight. Perhaps Republicans, feeling like beat-down drunks outside the local bar, need to walk it off and ice up.
What did we really accomplish? Are things any different than they were three weeks ago? We took a collective trip to manufactured hell and all we got was this stupid stopwatch to reset. There is no long-term budget, just another extension, like a hung-over doctoral student begging for another day to complete a dissertation. There is only an empty “super committee” idea with a track record of empty promises and scribbled proposals. Sequestration is still in place. Markets may have bounced up two hundred points from the ecstasy of a temporary debt ceiling fix, but it’s just that: temporary. Three and a half months from now we’ll wake up from an incredibly half-witted Bill Murray stupor looping through Groundhog Day.
So, what exactly can we get happy about? There’s still a solid 30 percent of the country (once you average the polls) that doesn’t want to compromise which means a 60 percent chance we’re re-litigating Capitol Hill troubles again come February — and a 90 percent chance it’ll be just as intense in the fourth quarter with seconds on the clock. Republicans, desperately wanting to keep their party face intact, will be damned if they find humiliation staring them down in three months. They’ll want their pound of flesh after gaining next to nothing in this round. “See, we’re going to start this all over again,” was the take of Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) in the New York Times, which is pretty ballsy considering the gigantic military imprint in his district and the federal funding flowing through it.
Polls show Republicans took a beating. Political prediction wizards like The Cook Political Report and Stuart Rothenberg now put the House in play, with Democrats seeing more than a dozen seats once out of reach as winnable in 2014. But, midterm elections are over a year away and voter memories have very short. Only the most committed and active 10 percent of the population really cares between now and then, and the only folks who were angry enough to protest were the Confederate flag-flying fools who egged us into shutdown in the first place. We can keep looking at the polls, and we can keep talking about how bad one party looks compared to the other. But, ultimately, polls don’t elect. Elections do. And the next one is 10 months away from the disaster sequel awaiting us in the New Year.
CHARLES D. ELLISON is a veteran political strategist, Washington Correspondent for The Philadelphia Tribune and regular politics contributor for Philadelphia Magazine online. When not found in UPTOWN Magazine or TheRoot.com, he can be reached via Twitter @charlesdellison.