A shift to the middle could be in store for the GOP

Though you might hear pundits and politicians claim there are no winners and losers in the shutdown debacle, it is pretty hard to look at the Republican Party and say that it has not suffered a tremendous defeat. The shutdown exposed a growing rift inside the GOP between the so-called tea party and less extreme conservatives. If the shutdown proved one thing, it is that the tea party’s only agenda is to see President Barack Obama’s health care plan crash and burn. Ultimately, this agenda is unsustainable, and the GOP will pay dearly for it.

When Speaker of the House John Boehner introduced a bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, he could not muster up enough GOP support for it. The bill eventually died, after the Heritage Foundation urged House Republicans to vote against it for not doing enough to damage the Affordable Care Act, according to PoliticusUSA.

If there were ever any question over the GOP’s priorities, let it be put to rest. The Republican Party has unequivocally spoken: They would rather see the Affordable Care Act, a bill that passed years ago, be killed than have a functioning government.

If the GOP thinks it can just walk away from this mess, it is in for a rude awakening. With the 2014 elections just over a year away, Democratic candidates will have plenty to run on. Not to mention, with the debt ceiling issue merely pushed back until February, it is very likely that we will run into this mess all over again in a few months.

Whether the GOP learns from its mistakes or pushes for yet another shutdown, it will not reflect well on the Republican Party. If congressional Republicans push for another shutdown, Democrats will naturally attack them for shutting down the government twice in less than one year.

On the other hand, if they are more willing to negotiate this time around, then it will be all but an official concession of defeat to the Democrats. Come to think of it, watching congressional Republicans come to the negotiating table sullen and humbled would feel really satisfying, but I digress.

Much like Republicans pushed to the far right during the 2010 midterm elections, it may be that their best bet looking ahead is a move toward the center. While doing so would amount to an admission of failure, it would at least signify a degree of maturity among congressional Republicans, who have largely acted like disagreeable toddlers since Obama took office.

I would go after Democrats for their role in causing the shutdown if they really had one. Their only agenda was to implement a law that had passed cleanly through Congress.

To be perfectly honest, I could not care less which direction the GOP takes. If Republicans want to continue to shoot themselves in the foot, that just bodes well for Democrats in 2014 and beyond. But it is absolutely unacceptable for budget negotiations rife with ludicrous demands to become commonplace. That is no way to devise policy – plain and simple.

If the GOP has any shot at restoring its credibility, a move to the center might be it. It is not a sure thing, but at this point, what does the Republican Party have to lose?