Basically, for two reasons:
1. The Democrats want a shutdown. They expect the Republicans to get most of the blame, enabling President Obama to look sweetly reasonable and entirely moderate by contrast.
2. The GOP leadership will prove unable to talk sense to the 87 freshmen Republicans in the House and their supporters in the Tea Party. The House freshmen, encouraged--I might almost have said egged on--by certain members of the Senate, including Rand Paul, will insist on bigger cuts than the White House and Senate can accept.
Ergo, a shutdown--and the Democrats are right. Republicans will take most of the blame. As Newt Gingrich learned in 1995, when you're up against the President of the United States and the mainstream press, you lose.
And all this is so completely and utterly needless. Republicans are winning. They need to keep locking in actual gains, not make a grand and glorious but losing stand. As Fred Barnes argues in this morning's Wall Street Journal:
What's unsatisfying to many conservatives is most likely the best Republicans can achieve in 2011. "Public opinion seems to support Republican efforts to cut spending without shutting down the government," notes Keith Hennessey, former domestic policy adviser to President George W. Bush, and some recent polls back him up. Mr. Hennessey supports a gradualist strategy. "Don't change tactics," he says. "Just ratchet up your demands a little."
That makes sense. What doesn't is sacrificing spending cuts you can get on the altar of those you can't.
Republicans face a single imperative--just one exigency--and it isn't cutting the budget this year. It's defeating President Obama next year. Only then--only with a Republican in the White House--can truly deep budget cuts begin. Insisting, as Rand Paul has done, on cutting $500 billion right now? Refusing, as Marco Rubio has done, to vote on any more continuing resolutions, even if they include modest but genuine cuts? Sheer self-indulgence.
Talk me out of it if you can. Persuade me that a government shutdown next month would be good for the country, or for the GOP, or for the Tea Party, or for anyone at all. But until you do, I have to tell you, I feel as though I'm watching one of those controlled, slow-motion car crashes. Only instead of a dummy, inside there are 87 GOP House freshmen who have no idea--no idea at all--what's about to happen to them.