Some hard-line House Republicans tried to make nice with business lobbyists in a meeting with some 300 (!) business association representatives and lobbyists, Politico reported. But — to show how fundamentally unserious they are — the congressman did not bring up the shutdown. (“Several attendees said they were frustrated the lawmakers did not address what they described as ‘the elephant in the room’ on what they learned from the shutdown and whether they planned to force a similar standoff early next year when stop-gap government funding and the debt ceiling will be voted on again.”)
Business people and all mainstream Republicans should be blunt with the shutdown crowd. They should ask the following (at the very least):
1. Would you close the government if you could do it again to try to get rid of Obamacare? Do you think your leadership “sold out”?
2. Are you going to repeat that effort when we get to January 15?
3. Would you hold out for more than a one-year delay in the individual mandate?
4. Would you oppose a budget agreement that contained tax reform and a domestic energy bill if it did not defund Obamacare?
I suspect that the answer of hard-liners to most, if not all of these, would be “yes” — and for that reason the business folks should conclude this gang is fundamentally unserious about governance.
The House shutdown advocates sure haven’t yet shown they can learn from experience or are receptive to new facts. In a recent Fox poll, a miniscule 3 percent of voters thought the GOP won, with only 6 percent of Republicans thinking the party had won. Yet this crew expresses no regrets. A full 61 percent of voters think the shutdown hurt the country and a large plurality think it hurt the GOP. But once again the hard-liners presumably still consider the shutdown to be an option in January.
The obsession with getting what they can’t have (Obamacare defunding) makes anything that they can get (e.g. tax reform, spending restraint), including a partial victory on Obamacare, a threat to their goals. That is not however how grown-ups in the real world operate. Business people, like most Americans, try not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. Utopianism, at least until now, has been more associated with Western Europe than with America. In the United States — where innovation and self-improvement are lauded — the culture has generally rewarded those who achieve concrete aims, not those who only dream of an idealized future that meets their approval.
The hard-liners widely believe we wouldn’t have experienced a default even if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised. Most of them insist immigration reform is only acceptable if no one who came here illegally can ever obtain citizenship. This is a different realm from those who want a functioning government. If you think politics is about never making a deal and about political purity, you’ve got nothing business people want, and the business people know it.
Unlike sappy pundits, Silicon Valley execs, for example, know now that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is theoretically in favor of immigration reform but not specifically willing to accept any bill that can pass. They’ll be smarter next time he comes looking for cash. Main Street business leaders know that when you can’t keep the doors open and the lights on, you’ve failed. They’ll remember that when primary season comes along. For the political purists, no loaf is always better than half a loaf in divided government; for people trying to plan their lives and businesses and who want relief from government excess (that would be the backbone of the GOP), half a loaf is always better.
So what do business people and other constituent groups (be they farmers or entrepreneurs or suburban couples) do? Don’t be a cheap date — assess these people on their actions. Understand people can grow and learn, but that some people simply lack prudence, good judgment and common sense. Judging from the polls (for the senators who headed the shutdown or the tea party more generally), voters aren’t too pleased with the hard-liners. The onus is, especially with this group of congressmen, to demonstrate they are serving their constituents’ interests and deserve reelection. Right now that’s highly debatable.