In defense of government shutdowns

One of the resonant arguments in favor of capital punishment is actually a meta-argument: it's not so much the exercise of the death penalty that matters, but rather the option to exercise it.  People are less likely to behave in a way they know will turn out badly for them; would-be criminals who know that they could be utterly destroyed are no exception.

The same logic applies to government shutdowns, and explains why many conservatives are so frustrated with "we will not be shutting down the government" Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership.

At the time of last year's government shutdown (this term always deserves sarcasm-quotes; it was a slowdown, if anything, leaving about 80% operational and eventually effecting a retroactive vacation for the rest), many right-leaning pundits (though not all) fretted that the media would portray the entire operation as Republicans' fault and bring about the apocalyptic end of the GOP.  And, granted, some polls bore this out, lending weight to this author's everlasting suspicion of the usefulness of most polls.

Because in November of this year, we all recall, Republicans destroyed Democrats at the ballot box.

Of course, correlation does not equal causation, and maybe the 2013 shutdown will cause every Republican congressman's office on the Hill to spontaneously catch fire at some future time.  But the combination of Americans' short attention span and the uselessness of trying to predict phenomena like this makes some Republicans' continuing assurances that no, never ever will we ever shut the government down, and perish the thought come off rather hysterical.

Worse still is the conviction that Americans and their representatives must cower before the all-powerful media.  This same media threw everything it had at Cliven Bundy – heck, even some conservatives did the same – and yet the man won his public standoff with the federal government, if only because of the tremendous exposure he got, combined with Americans' concomitant disgust with an overweening Uncle Sam.

The mainstream media continues to lose credibility (to the point of abject, mind-blowing absurdity), but the cliché about cocktail parties seems to drive too many Beltway-based Republicans' opinions on how influential these people are.  Yes, it's a blow when people say mean things about you, but there are more important things here to consider.

What's right is often not popular.  And when the nation is saddled with a mainstream media that loves what's popular and hates what's right, some unpleasantness will result from defending the latter.  To cringe is to capitulate.

This is not to say that a shutdown is the best course of action, or even necessarily an advisable one.  But Obama's escalating power-grabs and lawlessness require that all options be on the table in the fight to curb him.  For McConnell, Boehner, and the rest to trip over their own heels backing away, palms out, all but screaming that a government shutdown is out of the question, is disgraceful.  It makes them look like cowards unworthy of the trust of those who voted for them.  Better to say that we will do whatever needs to be done to safeguard the people's liberty (to whatever extent they can, considering the damage they've allowed already).

Some retrospective defenses of last October's shutdown are trickling in.  As Obama's tyrannical amnesty actions seep into the public's consciousness, more may crop up.  In the meantime, better for us to have a crop of Republicans willing to defend our liberty and way of life without apologizing, and without flamboyantly tossing aside their bargaining chips before the negotiations even begin.

Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor.  Contact him at, and follow him on Twitter @DJB627.