It’s rare for Donald Trump to follow anyone’s lead but his own, especially the lead of his only half-serious contender Ron DeSantis, but the former president has jumped on the shutdown bandwagon, perhaps convinced of its effectiveness as a campaign strategy.
Earlier this month, DeSantis reportedly spoke with some of the current members of the House Freedom Caucus, which he helped found, to lend them his support in their government hijacking efforts. An austerity-feigner himself, DeSantis reportedly saw some electoral advantage in supporting the hardliners as they buck party leadership, use appropriations bills to fight manufactured culture wars and yell about unrealistic spending cuts, refuse to compromise on a short term stopgap, tank the bills that actually manage to land on the House floor last minute and force a shutdown.
Donald Trump apparently does too.
“The Republicans lost big on Debt Ceiling, got NOTHING, and now are worried that they will be BLAMED for the Budget Shutdown. Wrong!!! Whoever is President will be blamed,” Trump wrote on Truth Social Sunday. “UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN! Close the Border, stop the Weaponization of ‘Justice,’ and End Election Interference.”
Throwing his support behind the “burn-it-all-down caucus'” effort is only surprising in that he’s bucking “my Kevin” in the process. Trump has been a longtime ally of the House speaker and even got involved in his shakespearian speakership election. But the political needs of Kevin McCarthy take a school bus-length back seat to Trump’s desperation to both attack the Justice Department and to win the White House in 2024, both of which he views as crucial to fending off his increasingly serious legal woes.
Trump and DeSantis seem to be banking on the idea that President Biden and Democrats will be blamed for the near-guaranteed shutdown. Democrats have been trying to make it clear since before the August recess that any shutdown would be the fault of far-right MAGA Republicans. Since then, even McCarthy has echoed that messaging as he openly laments the fact that he’s “not quite sure what they want,” referencing the hardliners in his caucus.
But only a third of American voters appear to have their heads on straight, at least for now, about where the blame lies. A new Morning Consult poll out this morning found that one in three voters would blame congressional Republicans for a shutdown. The rest are convinced it’s Democrats’ faults: “23% would blame President Joe Biden and 21% would blame Democrats in Congress,” the poll said.
As the Senate works to advance a clean continuing resolution this week to buy everyone more time, McCarthy seems confident he will be able to get a least some package of spending bills passed on the House floor — bills that do nothing to avert a shutdown and everything to secure his standing as speaker.
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