Shutdown Optics Wars

It occurred to me that this shutdown is the Republicans’ best and probably only strategy for winning elections in 2018. Prior to the shutdown, there were only two accomplishments Republicans could campaign on: Neil Gorsuch and passing the Tax Bill, neither of which are particularly great for capturing undecided voters, even if there wasn’t a truckload of negative baggage attached to each of them.

Of course, they could also campaign on “Look how great Trump is!” Um. Yeah. Probably not a great strategy for most areas of the country.

Anyway, the shutdown gives Republicans the opportunity to add to the equation: “OMG Look What Those Awful Democrats Did! Even Trump Wouldn’t Do Anything That Bad!” Look for them to find and highlight stories of military families who can’t pay for groceries, or something like that. A message of “the other guy is really awful” is far more effective for getting people on your side than a message of “hey look we are doing great.” Especially when you aren’t doing great.

And at the risk being crass, it would be fantastic for Republicans if something bad happened during the shutdown which the government could not respond to. (There is no doubt in my mind that both Republicans and Democrats are strategizing behind closed doors about that.) If anything does happen, Republicans will capitalize on it hardcore and probably “win” the shutdown optics.

(By the way, I expect Democrats to counter the starving troops optics by giving out food to the troops, or something like that. “The Republicans won’t let the government function, so we’ll do it for them! We are the party that helps the troops!”)

Thanks to the American people being so generally uninterested and uninformed about their government, these incredibly obvious attempts to shape public opinion actually work.


The government re-opened on Tuesday, having been “shut down” for only Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Congress reached a temporary deal for two weeks.