Ted Cruz, the government shutdowns, and the road to Trump

This Megan McArdle Twitter thread really gets to some popular misconceptions about the Ted Cruz–led government shutdown of 2013. McArdle strongly implies (I think) that the shutdown cost Republicans “their best chance to repeal/delay Obamacare.” I don’t think that is what happened. I don’t think there was any chance of Obamacare’s being repealed or replaced after Obama was reelected in 2012. The legacy of the 2013 shutdown was in how it made Ted Cruz’s reputation — for better and for worse.

The first is just chronology. Cruz wasn’t elected a senator until 2012, and he didn’t take office until 2013. By that time, Obama was in his second term and no longer had to worry about reelection. As analysts pointed out at the time, there was no way that Obama was going to allow any changes to his signature law — unless it was on his terms. The only way Republicans could have forced a repeal of Obamacare was through a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. That is why Cruz’s shutdown was so obviously futile except as a self-aggrandizing political stunt.

But just because it was futile doesn’t mean it was harmful to the fortunes of the Republican party. The shutdown caused a short-term dip in the party’s popularity, but it didn’t stop the GOP from gaining nine Senate and 13 House seats in the 2014 midterm elections. The Republicans even made huge gains in the state legislatures.