G.O.P. Post-Mortem: Why the Shutdown Happened
Back this past summer, a few things were abundantly obvious.
We knew Walter White was going to meet his demise. We knew The Lone Ranger would be terrible (Johnny Depp as Tonto?). Those of us in Philadelphia knew that the Phillies didn't have a prayer of reaching the post season. And we knew that the government was facing a shutdown in October.
Even in July, it was in the news. The Treasury was making dire predictions. The President was warning the country. Sean Hannity was licking his chops, waiting for the battle to begin. And so it did. The big spending and debt ceiling battle ended yesterday with an 11th hour agreement that kicked the can down the road to February.
The Republican leaders knew this was coming too. So what do you think they were doing this summer? Playing golf? Hoping things would work out without too much ado?
The leaders of the Republican party were making plans.
It makes sense. And it's what good leaders do.
They always have the next 30-60 days worked out, but they're also thinking about the future. They don't lead reactively--they lead proactively. They have a long-term goal and short term objectives to reach that goal. Sometimes those plans are unpopular. Sometimes they're difficult to execute. It's often a messy process. And nothing ever goes according to plan. But when you have a plan, you stick to it.
I believe that the Republican leaders had and still have a plan. Not only that, I believe their plan is succeeding. I may not agree with everything they're anticipating or sketching out, but as a business owner, I respect the fact that this was not a seat-of-the-pants effort. It was thought out months ago.
Let's deconstruct what happened this month.
The debt ceiling was raised and a government spending bill was passed at the 11th hour. Representative Cruz, with all his theatrics, focused national attention on the Affordable Care Act, got the message out for the people that elected him, riled up the base, and raised some serious doubts about the legislation. And then stepped aside.
The government shut down for almost three weeks and life carried on. Aside from a few innocent bystanders, which can never be avoided in battle, Congress had immediately passed legislation at the start of the shutdown that guaranteed government workers their back wages when they returned. The President has, fairly or unfairly, been portrayed by Republicans as a non-negotiator and a weak leader, unable to control events, compromise, and do business with the opposing party.
Most importantly, the issue has not been resolved--it has been delayed to later in 2014 which (surprise!) happens to be an election year. And to top it all off, the Republicans came together at the end to give their embattled leader a well-rehearsed standing ovation.
Coincidence? I think not.
The Republicans were thinking about mid-term elections.
Back in July, the Republicans knew they couldn't win this battle. They knew they couldn't stop Obamacare. They couldn't beat the President. (They can do the math: They don't have the votes.)
But that wasn't their long-term objective. Their-long term objective was to take the battle into 2014 for the mid-term elections. Their long-term objective is to take back the Senate, control Congress, and then really do damage to the President's agenda and legacy.
By pushing this debate deeper into election season, they're giving themselves the chance to make their case, again and again, to the American people. It gives them another shot. Even Nate Silver, the pollster who accurately called the last elections, has predicted that the debt ceiling battle will have little negative effect on both parties come November.
Admittedly, it's not a bad plan. You may not agree. I'm not sure I agree. You may find it unseemly, frustrating, and sordid. You may be angry watching the dysfunction and angry at all the time spent and lives affected by this kind of politics. Even I was frustrated at the Republicans' tactics--and I'm a Republican.
If you're watching from China, you may be thinking of making your future investments elsewhere. But if you're a business owner, it's useful to watch and learn. The Republicans' tactics were not unimpressive. Because the Republicans had and still have a plan. And we're all watching it play out.
Business leaders, take note: Execute, take the heat, and achieve your goals.
This is what it's like to run a business. You make your plans. You execute your plans. You take the heat. And then, hopefully, you achieve your goals.
Because in the end, achieving your goals is the most important thing. So you should always be thinking ahead. You should always have a long-term plan, like the Republicans do. (I hope they do. Because if this wasn't part of a plan, then I'm switching parties.)
GENE MARKS is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.
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