David Broder and various other DC mandarins say that Democrats are asking for trouble if they bring the senate to a standstill over the nuclear option. They point to the fact that Newt Gingrich's Republicans took the blame for the government shutdowns in 1995-96, not Bill Clinton.
I should say first that I worry about the politics of the Democrats doing this too. But there's not nearly as much cause for worry as these worthies' imagine.
Some of their confusion stems from the fact that few of them could ever quite get their heads around the idea that the Republicans took the hit for Gingrich's government shutdown -- in part because most of them were secretly enraptured with Newt at the time.
Broder's reference to the power of the president's bully pulpit as the lever that will shift public opinion against the Democrats is just another example of his inability to grasp that the public turn against the Republicans in late 1995 and early 1996 was a reaction, on the merits, to Republican excesses, not the result of some inscrutable black magic Bill Clinton managed to pull off with a few press availabilities.
The more obvious flaw in Broder's reasoning stems from another bit of Washington myopia. What killed the Republicans on the government shutdown, in addition to the pure recklessness of the stunt, was that the government did shut down. National parks closed. Various government services and functions stopped operating. It had an immediate and direct effect on people's lives.
Shutting down the senate does nothing of the sort. The government and all its essential services will go right on functioning as usual. All that will change is that some not-particularly-popular Republican legislation might not pass. Or perhaps James Dobson won't be able to get an anti-SpongeBob bill shepherded through Congress by one of his favored legislators. To imagine that that will have an impact equal to that of shutting down the government's non-emergency services can only be called a uniquely Washingtonian view.
Don't get me wrong: shutting down the senate over judicial nominations is risky business. But parallels drawn by Broder and others show mainly how out of touch they are with what happens outside of the DC region.