Republicans on the Hill are doing their best to keep on a game face in the early hours of the shutdown. They will say Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was intransigent. They will argue the Democrats have been forced to defend an unpopular health-care scheme. I’ve argued these are true but somewhat beside the point. By their own terms, the Republicans’ objective was to get Democrats to cave, not to shut down the government. Democrats aren’t caving, and the government for is shut down.
This does not mean everything is grim for conservatives. Here are 11 silver linings for those conservatives who have been alarmed at recent events:
1. For the first time House, radicals will have to live with the results of their handiwork.
2. Donors, mainstream Republicans and business leaders understand that they will need to tip the balance of power and resources away from the party’s most destructive elements. American Crossroads — not Heritage Action — has the better true believer vs. electable Republican argument.
3. GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida will have to explain what, if anything, they accomplished. They now will face greater pushback from skeptical party members and conservative media. They’ve lost credibility and shown themselves ill-prepared to obtain conservative ends. That will make it easier for more constructive voices to be heard and will dissuade conservatives who should know better (e.g. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio) from following their lead. It also may teach them to stay out of the House’s business.
4. The malignant influence of outside hard-line groups has been fully revealed. The bullying, blame-casting, misrepresenting and foolish risk-taking that are the hallmarks of Heritage Action, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project, to name a few, will find less support.
5. Tough fiscal conservatives — Sens.Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Richard Burr (R- N.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) — who opposed the suicide squad’s strategy may have greater sway within Congress.
6. This may help immigration reform. The same radical voices (e.g. Cruz, Lee, Sen. Rand Paul, House hard-liners) who opposed immigration reform are adamantly against any form of compromise on Obamacare. Their political judgment is now under the microscope, and Republicans will need an accomplishment to refute the “they hate government” charge.
7. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) got a big boost. His primary opponent, Matt Bevins, has been cheering this fight. McConnell has a powerful argument that Bevins and other zealots are not ready for prime time. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) can rest easier, having refused to encourage the doomed strategy. (And he doesn’t much need Cruz’s endorsement; Cruz may need Cornyn more than Cornyn needs Cruz.)
8. Up-and-coming GOP senators who declined to go along with the suicide squad (e.g. Ayotte) get a boost and encouragement to refrain from histrionics.
9. Wiser donors will question why they are giving money to questionable primary contenders and to outfits such as Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
10. Red-state Democrats will have to defend themselves in 2014. With or without the shutdown, they are tied to Obamacare, and any glitches that arise are on their shoulders.