Thursday, July 14, 2011

Overtaken by events

I had a post about the shutdown that I started this morning that I was hoping to finish over the lunch hour, but it may be moot:

Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday morning that he is willing to accept Republicans' June 30 budget offer, which would close a $1.4 billion budget difference by delaying payment of school funds and borrowing against the state's tobacco settlement.

"This is the only viable option that's potentially available," Dayton said.

Not surprisingly, the lefties are pissed. Jeff Rosenberg, writing at MNpublius, says the following:

In a speech just a little while ago, Governor Dayton announced that given the MNGOP’s stunning intransigence and his own desire not to extend the pain of the shutdown, he will accept the GOP’s June 30th offer. He did, however, insist that they drop their social-policy poison pills from the bill.

What’s stunning about this to me is what really allowed the Republicans to achieve such a victory. The polling clearly indicated that the public sided with the governor; politically, Dayton could have held out longer than the MNGOP. But this is all about trying to end the shutdown vs. trying to “win.”

Well, yeah. You play to win. A few observations:
  • The problem Dayton has faced from the get-go is that his only leverage was to hold a knife to his own throat. The government workers he laid off are his foot soldiers and had the most to lose from a shutdown. The effects of the shutdown to this point are mostly annoyances to those outside the public sector. If you weren't planning a trip to a state park, or trying to get a driver's license, you weren't likely affected that much.
  • The GOP could argue, and has argued, that they had funded the government with the budget bills they passed. Even if the evil, heartless Republicans were inclined to change the bills, they were powerless to do so as long as the governor refused to call them back into special session. While the reportage of the event has largely sidestepped that reality, anyone who has been paying attention knew it anyway.
  • One of the dangers about public polling, especially of the sort that is regularly offered as a substitute for news, is believing it too much. My guess is that the more detailed internal polling that all politicians do was decidedly less positive than Jeff would care to admit. I'd also guess that the trendline was getting worse by the day.
  • The MillerCoors contretemps that emerged yesterday was probably the most ridiculous example of why the shutdown is going wrong for Dayton. Dayton's friends in the press had to report the reason that the license had expired. It wasn't corporate malfeasance on the part of the hegemonic beverage company, but rather it was bureaucratic stupidity of the most banal variety. The idea that a company would have to remove its products from thousands of store shelves in Minnesota, because the state couldn't figure out how to cash a check with an overpayment, is deeply embarrassing for all involved. If you're an average person, do you want to pay for more of that level of service? It's the sort of attention the government can't afford. The entire justification for the licensing regimen that the state undertakes was becoming the subject of ridicule. As Machiavelli pointed out, if you're a politician, you can survive being hated so long as you are feared. If you become a figure of mockery, your prospects aren't as good.

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