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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gingrich and Shutdowns

In After Hope and Change, we discuss Newt Gingrich's 2012 candidacy.

At CNN, Gingrich compares the 1995-96 shutdowns with the current impasse, noting that polls tilted against the GOP in the earlier conflict.
This is not to say the shutdowns were a strategic mistake. Quite the opposite: The enormous progress we made afterward -- four consecutive balanced budgets, welfare reform, the first tax cut in 16 years -- was a direct result of Republicans standing firm in 1995 and early 1996. It proved to Clinton, and more importantly to the country, that we were serious about the ideas we had run on in 1994. As a consequence, we were the first re-elected Republican majority in the House since 1928.

In the long run, in other words, the shutdowns didn't do us any damage, a fact Gallup documented recently.
In 1998, however, he took a different tone.From Newt Gingrich, Lessons Learned the Hard Way (HarperCollins, 1998), pp. 10, 41:
We had not only failed to take into account the ability of the Senate to delay us and obstruct us, but we had much too cavalierly underrated the power of the President, even a President who had lost his legislative majority and was in a certain amount of trouble for other reasons. I am speaking of the power of the veto. Even if you pass something through both the House and the Senate, there is that presidential pen. How could we have forgotten that?
...
The idea of a grand showdown on spending had long been a staple of conservative analysis. Even before Reagan's inaugural, he had been approached by one prominent conservative who urged him to force a showdown over the debt ceiling and simply refuse to sign on to one until the Democratic Congress reined in its spending plans. Reagan rejected this idea with a comment I wish I had understood better at the time. The conservative activist who told me that story was convinced that Reagan would have won such a showdown. For fifteen years I agreed with him, but I was to learn something about the American people that too many conservatives don't appreciate. They want their leaders to have principled disagreements but they want these disagreements to be settled in constructive ways. That is not, of course, what our own activists were telling us. They were all gung ho for a brutal fight over spending and taxes. We mistook their enthusiasm for the views of the American public."
Also see an earlier post explaining how the GOP was able to survive the 1995 shutdown: by changing course and doing deals with Clinton.