New York Times columnist David Brooks doubts that the partial government shutdown will cost the Republican Party its control of the House of Representatives, despite the indications from some polls that the GOP bears the brunt of the backlash.
But that didn’t stop Brooks from disparaging the Republicans that decided to use the power of the purse to fight President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care reform law.
“Well, you can take another look, and I might be in favor of taking another look, but you have got to look at reality,” Brooks said on Friday’s broadcast of PBS’s “NewsHour.” “You have got to know what country you’re living in and what year it is. And so you [have] got to know there is no path there. There was never a path for Ted Cruz to be successful. And so, part of politics is having the passion of your beliefs but the prudence of the reality. And he might have had the passion of his beliefs, but he’s — it’s demagoguery to think that you can just do that without doing the practicality. And so he, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, they led the Republican Party on a suicide mission. The Republicans know that. They knew it beforehand.”
Brooks explained to his PBS colleagues, host Judy Woodruff and Creators syndicate columnist Mark Shields, that the threat of primary challenges motivated House Republicans — especially House Speaker John Boehner, who Brooks argued strengthened his speakership by forcing the shutdown — to adopt the defund strategy.
“They were all afraid of getting primary-challenged,” Brooks said. “And they — I think most of them could beat the primary challenge, but they just don’t want the challenge. And so they’re willing to ride it again. And, frankly, I don’t know about — I haven’t been told this, but John Boehner’s speakership was fragile, not that there’s a great alternative sitting out there. But for him now to have fought this fight, even if they lose, even if the party is hurt, I think his speakership might be a little more secure, actually.”
Although Shields argued that the beginning of the end had begun for the Republican control of the House, Brooks dismissed that possibility, citing Republican entrenchment in congressional districts and that the public’s general unawareness of the shutdown.
“I agree with you on the national election front,” Brooks said. “I think they have problems. The demographic problems are well-known. I think, in the midterms, I think it’s hard to see the Republicans losing the House. They’re reasonably entrenched in those districts. This is, frankly, not that big a news event to people. It’s not like a transformational news event that is going to linger on necessarily year after year. Most people don’t notice the government is shut down. We have got nice traffic here in Washington the last week. I like it. But some people are suffering. That’s true. And — but as a national transformative thing, the way Watergate was, the way Vietnam was, I’m not sure we’re there.”