Unlike past shutdowns, which were indeed quibbles about this or that, the current shutdown is a big deal. The question posed is a fundamental one about the very nature of this nation: Is the federal government the servant or the master of the American people. Our Constitution says the former; sixty-years of federal expansion says the latter.
The WWII Memorial showdown in Washington makes concrete this abstract battle. It forces us to ask whether a government separate from and dominant over citizens owns that open air memorial, or whether a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has gotten too big for its britches and needs to be knocked down a peg.
There can be no doubt that what the House is doing is constitutional. Having said that, they are doing a terrible job of selling it, and that’s separate from the fact that the drive-by media is doing its best to tar and feather them. It’s a reminder of something I’ve learned in the 12 years since I crossed the Rubicon and changed political affiliations: Republicans are the party of smart ideologies and poor strategies. Democrats/Progressives, while their ideas may be disastrous, as is proven by every time and place in which they been put into effect, are master strategists. (And in that regard, Saul Alinsky is definitely their Sun Tzu.)
This problem is, in part, built into the system. To the extent there are still conservatives in the Republican party, their individualism makes them as easy to herd as angry cats. Democrats, on the other hand, find meaning in collective action. Even when their ideas are bad, their monolithic front gives them power.
UPDATE: James Taranto notes that, in this go-round, the usually tactically disciplined Democrat party has been unusually maladroit. Hubris or something else?
UPDATE 2: David Stockman sees also sees what’s happening as a determinative moment, but for different reasons.