Today a lot of pundits are trying to imagine the future with a Republican Senate and House. The Atlantic's Molly Ball thinks Republicans might be motivated to act in a constructive manner, because doing otherwise would be perilous for them:
When and if they take control of the Senate, Republicans will have a big incentive not to simply create more gridlock: It would make them look terrible, worsening their image as the "party of no" and making it harder for their presidential nominee to win in 2016. The same goes for passing unpopular legislation like the Ryan budget or repealing Obamacare -- which most voters do not favor, even though the law is also unpopular.... with control of both houses of Congress, Republicans would be on the hook for Congress's actions. They alone would get the blame if Congress remained dysfunctional....Paul Waldman believes Republicans will have to be extreme and intransigent in order to appeal to the party's base -- but he agrees that that's a perilous course for them, though he doesn't think they'll go so far as to shut down the government, which he thinks would be really perilous:
... They pass bills meant to mollify their supporters, the bills are filibustered by Democrats and the bills die. Other than stopping Obama administration appointments ... , Senate Republicans will have little to show their base.Yeah? And so what?
And they will have even less to show the broader public. Obama will decry the do-nothing, radicalized Congress, and to the average voter, that's exactly what it will look like: a bunch of Washington blowhards having temper tantrums that don't do anything to improve Americans' lives.
Not only that, at various times they will have no choice but to make deals with Obama. McConnell, John Boehner and the more sober Republicans know that there's nothing worse for them politically than forcing government shutdowns and debt defaults. That means they will have to agree to continuing resolutions keeping the government open and making increases in the debt ceiling in order to avoid national and political disaster. And when they do, the tea party base of the GOP will be enraged.
Thanks to Republicans, Congress accomplished nothing in the past two years. Americans hate Congress for that, and congressional Republicans have staggeringly low approval ratings as a result. A year ago, Republicans shut down the government, and Americans really hated that.
And guess what? None of that mattered to Republicans. They're poised to have a great election.
The shutdown was in October 2013, and Americans forgot all about it by Thanksgiving, if not sooner. Everyone who thought it was going to affect this year's midterms was an idiot. Democrats never hammer away at Republicans the way Republicans hammer away at Democrats, and the mainstream press routinely blames both sides, so Republicans were never going to be held accountable for the shutdown. And most voters blame the president and his party for everything that's wrong with government, especially when the president is a Democrat and the right-wing media sets the tone of most debates, so voters aren't blaming Republicans for the do-nothing nature of the Congress, either.
Why should Republicans be worried if nothing is accomplished in the next two years? Hell, why should they even try to avoid another shutdown? They've proved that they suffer no long-term consequences for this sort of behavior. In the next two years, all they have to do is continue to let everything drift. Voters will stay angry, and Republicans will blame Obama -- with a little blame on the side for Hillary in foreign policy matters. Where's the peril? There is none -- Republicans are the Teflon party, at least as long as Democrats have the presidency.