Lessons from the last government shutdown

tags: government shutdown




With less than a week to go before a possible government shutdown, long-time political observers are tapping their memories for lessons from the last time the government shut down, in the fall of 1995 and winter of 1996.

One lesson that people should not take away is that the 1995-96 shutdowns themselves were a political disaster for Republicans. Certainly, the government shutdown didn’t help the GOP’s image, but the party had lost support among the public well before the initial shutdown in November 1995. The government shut down twice between then and January 1996 (Nov. 14-19; Dec. 16-Jan. 6).

First, some political history. A year earlier, the GOP scored a sweeping victory in the 1994 midterm, winning both the House and Senate for the first time in 42 years. The public set a high bar – perhaps too high, in retrospect – for GOP achievements. A Pew Research Center report in December 1994 characterized post-election reactions this way: “Public Expects GOP Miracles.”...



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