The right's deluded shutdown euphoria

According to conservative media, a government shutdown is either a non-issue... or an unalloyed positive

Published October 1, 2013 1:16PM (EDT)

Judging by the rightwing media's response, you'd think a partial government shutdown was good news — or no news at all.

Although the mainstream media (and even Sen. John McCain) spent Tuesday morning focused on a new Quinnipiac poll showing the Republican shutdown strategy to be political poison, the rightwing media opted instead to ignore or downplay the impact of a shutdown, while maintaining its demand that Obamacare is repealed, defunded, delayed, or diminished.

After spending the first few hours of the shutdown cracking jokes about its consequences, Erick Erickson, the Fox News contributor and editor-in-chief of RedState, wrote a post on the influential rightwing blog arguing that a government shutdown wasn't such a big deal after all. "The government is shut down and the world is spinning on," wrote Erickson. "You and I are still alive ... The President promised us horror upon horror with sequestration and we didn’t get it. They’ll do the same now."

For Erickson, in fact, the biggest concern was not the deleterious effects of a government shutdown, but the prospect that Republicans might agree to end it without extracting the right's desired Obamacare concessions. "The GOP only has something if it now stands its ground and demands defunding Obamacare," wrote Erickson before adding that Republicans "must be in this to win this." After arguing that a short-term shutdown "will do nothing but embarrass [the GOP]," Erickson ended his post with a warning to any potentially wavering Republicans: "The fight must be to either now keep government shut down till the Democrats blink or drive from office Republicans who vote to fund Obamacare."

Yet Erickson's single-minded intransigence wasn't reflected by all other rightwing media sources. Others, like the neoconservative Weekly Standard or the rabble-rousing Breitbart, opted instead to either obliquely address or completely ignore the shutdown. The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper's first post on Tuesday morning, for example, only indirectly acknowledged the shutdown crisis, and did so through the lens of implicitly criticizing the president for the number of staffers he'll maintain throughout the shutdown. Breitbart, meanwhile, didn't even bother to run a front-page story about the shutdown, opting instead to focus on the technical glitches accompanying Obamacare's rollout.

Meanwhile, National Review, one of the most influential rightwing media sources in the country, also chose to indirectly respond to the shutdown, releasing early Tuesday morning an Op-Ed from the magazine's editors titled, "Now Is the Time to Halt the ACA." While the piece never explicitly addresses the government shutdown, it's hard not to interpret the editors' exhortation that "now is the time to act" as a call to arms for the conservative rank-and-file to support House Republicans in the shutdown struggle. The piece's sub-headline, urging Republicans to halt the bill "before it entrenches itself," is just further evidence of where the editors' sympathies lie.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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