As midnight approached on Monday evening, an end came to the high-stakes poker game the United States Congress has been playing. Specifically, Republicans threatened a government shutdown if President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act wasn’t rolled back for a year, and the President and Congressional Democrats said no. The clock struck twelve, and the United States government shut down for the first time in 17 years.
Government workers received emails telling them not to show up at their jobs and tourists visiting national parks and museums now find signs like the one on Washington DC’s Air and Space Museum: “Sorry for the Inconvenience.” Ironically while most of the government is closed, one thing that remains open is enrollment in the Affordable Care Act.
At the heart of the battle are the Tea-publicans, members of the Republican Tea Party like Sen. Ted Cruz, and Speaker of the House John Boehner, They are sticking to their guns claiming this bad medicine is good for the country. “This may hurt but it’s good for you” is the PR pitch. A hard sell?
THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Ful Fiasco) for Republican members of Congress.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Short term harm only works if there is long term good . It’s difficult to say you’re working for constituents while causing them harm unless you can offer a rainbow at the end. As this contest escalates, the welfare of the public is increasingly lost. Political brinkmanship is what the debate has become and Republicans will need to claw back the PR fallout. As Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said, “Republicans are likely to get the blame” and its not clear how this “will benefit us more.” Without a clear and happy rainbow at the end, the PR damage looks set to continue.