I said this over at Greg's place yesterday (and just now another version of it on twitter), but I sort of buried it in the post, and so I want to highlight it properly:
[T]he key thing to know about a shutdown is that it will end. Maybe after a day; maybe after a month. It will end, and it will end with something that both Boehner (and mainstream conservatives) and Obama (and mainstream liberals) can live with. And at that point, there is nothing more certain in this world than that radical “conservatives” will believe that if only Boehner and Congressional Republicans had held out a little while longer, Obama would have surrendered and Republicans would have won a total victory.This is in response to Noam Scheiber, who thinks that it makes sense for Boehner to accept a shutdown because it will force Republicans to come to their senses (see also Brian Beutler today).
So a shutdown (or a debt limit breach) has to end with Boehner (supposedly) selling out conservatives, and doing it with far more press coverage and attention than he would get from (again, supposedly) selling them out before a shutdown by cutting a deal. That’s a disaster for him — and, on the other side of the Capitol, for Mitch McConnell — and one he’ll work hard to avoid.
What I think is that the bulk of the Republican conference already knows that a shutdown won't achieve the goal of rolling back health care reform; that's the sense, for example, from reporting within the conservative press about hostility to Ted Cruz. In fact, they believe it will be a disaster, but they feel pressured to go along anyway.
The problem is that nothing about actually going through with it is likely to help.
"Break the fever" was a bad idea when Barack Obama believed in it (or perhaps he just claimed to believe in it); it's a bad idea now. The isn't some easily-shattered illusion. It's a very successful enterprise. It's not something that a clever strategy can solve; it's just part of what politicians have to work around and muddle through.
The only good news is that I'm pretty sure Boehner knows all that. It might not be enough to prevent a debacle, but it's something.