October 8, 2013

Barack Obama gave a lengthy press conference today, and what was most notable about it wasn’t anything he said that was new — basically, he stuck to his line that he’ll negotiate anything as long as Republicans allow the government to reopen and raise the debt limit — but just how unified the Democrats remain. Here’s the core message he delivered:

[M]embers of Congress, and the House Republicans in particular, don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs. And two of their very basic jobs are passing a budget and making sure that America’s paying its bills. They don’t also get to say, you know, unless you give me what the voters rejected in the last election, I’m going to cause a recession.

(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

We’re a week-plus into this shutdown, and I didn’t hear anything from the president which deviated, even a tiny bit, from what House and Senate Democrats are saying. Not only that, but there doesn’t seem to be any split between any of these Democratic politicians and Democratic activists, party-aligned interest groups and other party actors. They appear to be completely united on rejecting GOP “hostage-taking.”

That’s certainly not the case on the other side, where Republicans have turned on each other, sometimes bitterly so, and where party-aligned groups have regularly criticized Republican politicians in Congress, whether it’s the Chamber of Commerce rejecting the Republican approach or tea party groups that have been quick to criticize House Speaker John Boehner and pragmatic conservative Republican senators.

Why the Democratic unity? It seems pretty straightforward: Democrats agree that both the substance and the procedure of Republican requests is flatly unreasonable. It’s not spin. It’s not a bluffing negotiating position. It’s apparently the virtually unanimous reaction of Democrats at all levels.

And that, finally, is why Republicans are losing the shutdown fight, and are going to continue losing it. The only question has been how badly the nation will be hurt by it, and how long it takes for Republicans to accept that they’ve misplayed this horribly.