Yglesias

Did the 1995 Government Shutdown Boost Public Approval of Bill Clinton?

Conventional wisdom in Washington DC is that the “government shutdown” prompted by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich’s hardball tactics was a political fiasco for congressional Republicans. And today conventional wisdom is split between a camp that thinks conservatives have “learned the lesson” of this fight and won’t do it again, and those who think that Tea-fueled House backbenchers will force a shutdown.

John Sides suggests that the conventional history is a bit simplistic:

There are perhaps other ways we can score the government shutdown. As I noted, other public opinion data suggested that more people faulted Gingrich than Clinton. And clearly Gingrich blinked first. Clinton “won” in that sense.

But the public did not come to feel more favorably toward Clinton during this period, which suggests again that life under divided government isn’t easy, even when presidents fight the opposite party and win.

Of course economic conditions also promise to be quite different in 2011 than they were in 1995. My sense is that under current conditions, a temporary halt in government purchases and transfers would be not only annoying to people but potentially really harmful to the larger macroeconomic picture.