Why a Government Shutdown Could Cost Republicans Congress

During a fight over a spending bill last year, President Donald Trump tweeted that the federal government needed “a good shutdown” to force Democrats to cooperate. But as Congress steams toward a Jan. 19 deadline to prevent a government shutdown in 2018, there’s strong evidence from history that there is no such thing as a “good shutdown” for the White House.

In fact, anyone sitting in the Oval Office during a government shutdown tends to fare poorly when their party faces voters next during national elections, especially when they are midterms, according to a TIME analysis of the 18 government shutdowns that have taken place since modern budgeting rules went in place. In fact, a government shutdown heading into a midterm election makes the losses facing the party in power twice as deep in the House — a harrowing threat for the current GOP majority that already appears to be in peril this fall.

In general, government shutdowns are bad for the United States. Billions in productivity evaporates as much of government grinds to a halt, it’s more expensive to shut the doors than to keep them open and the political fallout spares no one in the next elections.

How do government shutdowns impact the president’s party?
Election Year President House Net Change Senate Net Change
1 shutdown 1976 Ford (R) -1 R 0 R
4 shutdowns 1978 Carter (D) -15 D -3 D
2 shutdowns 1980 Carter (D) -34 D -12 D
2 shutdowns 1982 Reagan (R) -26 R +1 R
4 shutdowns 1984 Reagan (R) +14 R -2 R
1 shutdown 1986 Reagan (R) -5 R -8 R
1 shutdown 1988 Reagan (R) -2 R 0 R
1 shutdown 1990 H. W. Bush (R) -9 R -1 R
1992 H. W. Bush (R) +10 R 0 R
1994 Clinton (D) -52 D -8 D
2 shutdowns 1996 Clinton (D) +3 D -2 D
1998 Clinton (D) +5 D 0 D
2000 Clinton (D) +2 D +4 D
2002 Bush (R) +8 R +1 R
2004 Bush (R) +3 R +4 R
2006 Bush (R) -31 R -6 R
2008 Bush (R) -21 R -8 R
2010 Obama (D) -63 D -6 D
2012 Obama (D) +8 D +2 D
1 shutdown 2014 Obama (D) -13 D -9 D
2016 Obama (D) +6 D +2 D

Presidents’ first midterm elections often prove devastating anyway. In the last 100 years, the sitting president’s party has lost, on average, a net of 35 House seats in all but two election cycles. That’s more than the 24 seats Democrats need this year to reclaim the House and gain the ability to thwart Trump’s legislative agenda while bolstering investigations into his conduct.



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