The Partisan Squabble-Industrial Complex

Okay, it’s mostly funny that Ted Cruz showed up at a meeting of Senate conservatives with a poll he himself commissioned that “shows” why his shutdown strategy is a brilliant success, especially since his poll showed that more people blame Republicans for the shutdown.

But if we want to stop giggling (Alex Seitz-Wald: I only trust polls commissioned by Louie Gohmert.) for a minute at the possibility that his colleagues might actually believe anything they saw in that poll…

The detail I’d note about it is that Cruz — presumably his campaign committee — paid for the poll. Which means that his pollster is profiting from the shutdown. And I’m sure this isn’t an isolated instance. We also know that people have been running ads on this fight since August; that means in most cases money to people who make the ads (the exception would be in-house media people), and perhaps to people who place the ads; it also means revenue to whoever ran the ads.

Then there’s how Cruz got the money to commission the poll: I’m sure his fauxlibuster was great for generating campaign contributions. Indeed: I’m sure that everyone involved, at least everyone who is getting increased visibility, is cleaning up. That’s both politicians and organizations.

I haven’t looked up any numbers (other than Plain Blog traffic, which is at more or less twice the normal pace), but I’m pretty confident that ratings are way up at Fox News (and MSNBC) and the rest of the political mass media.

All of which is to recognize that for most of politics-as-an-industry, the shutdown/debt limit fight is excellent business. At least, if you don’t count government employees and those dependent on the government functioning properly as part of politics-as-an-industry.

Is all of that a significant cause of the shutdown and possible debt limit disaster? I don’t know! But I do know that there’s a direct financial incentive for a lot of people to generate high-visibility partisan fights. And people often react to direct financial incentives.

It certainly isn’t the whole story. It may well be a part of it.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.