With the deadline for a government shutdown looming and no deal in the Senate in sight, the big political question a lot of people are asking is: "Who will take the blame if the government does actually shut down?"
That's the wrong question. History tells us so.
The right question is: "If there is a government shutdown and one party is blamed for it by most voters, will they do anything about it at the ballot box?"
That's the better question because the facts tell us no one party has ever really had to pay an electoral price even when they've been fingered as the primary culprits in the always unpopular government shutdown game.
The 16-day government shutdown in September 2013 was a public relations disaster for the Republicans in Congress. At least that's what just about all the polls said. Then the public went to the polls just about a year later and … handed the GOP not only broader control of the House but a majority in the Senate for the first time in six years.
Shutdown fallout? Not so much.
But what about those two government shutdowns in late 1995 and then early 1996 that the Republican Congress also took the blame for? Didn't that lead to major political punishment for the GOP, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole?
That's not really what happened. In the 1996 congressional elections, the GOP actually won a net gain of two seats in the Senate and only lost two seats in the House. Picking up a greater Senate majority is much more valuable to any political party, especially if the only tradeoff is losing two seats out of 435 total in the House. And yes, Dole lost to Clinton in the presidential election but blaming Dole's loss on the government shutdown is a colossal stretch.
But what about the markets? Don't they take a big hit when the government shuts down?