As of this moment, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are at an impasse over the 2011 budget. Budget hawks in the Republican party have insisted on cutting President Obama’s spending plan. Democrats have agreed to some $30 billion in cuts, but that is not enough for a key segment of Republicans. If a budget doesn’t pass, the government shuts down on Friday. (Well, “essential services” won’t, but still. . . .)
You may recall another time when Republicans scored a big Congressional victory over an unpopular Democratic president. They demanded that the budget be cut and stood firm and uncompromising on that principle. The government shut down. Whereupon the public reacted against the Republicans, President Clinton’s popularity shot up, and he won re-election.
Is this a repeat of history? Are the Republicans over-reaching, again? Will this mean the re-election of Barack Obama? Is there anything different this time?
And here is a deeper question: Will the American public tolerate a tough, trimmed down budget? With so many Americans beholden in some way on federal money–getting social security, medicare, farm subsidies, business subsidies, government contracts, job-creating pork, federal programs, college loans, etc., etc.–even though they express worry about the deficit in the abstract, will they turn against any Republican or conservative who threatens to defund popular programs?