We didn't think they'd do it. We thought Republicans had absorbed the lessons of 1995-96 and that the high risk of being blamed by the public would be a spur to common sense.
If nothing else, we thought, they'd be worried about the economic repercussions of a federal shutdown.
But we were wrong. Incredibly, Republican hard-liners have triggered a shutdown in pursuit of a hopeless quest to delay or even defund the Affordable Care Act.
This is a battle Republicans cannot win. President Obama and Senate Democrats have no incentive to offer concessions so long as the public doesn't hold them responsible for any resulting hardship. Republicans are most likely to be blamed, and then, when the consequences get bad enough, they'll have little choice but to capitulate.
So why choose such brinkmanship in the first place? Why court public disgust and risk even losing their House majority in the 2014 elections — especially when that majority provides the useful service of sparing Americans from the perils of one-party government? It's baffling.
It also amounts to sheer willfulness. Whatever the downsides to Obamacare — some of which clearly need to be addressed — the fact remains that voters re-elected the man who considers it his signature legacy. It's not going away so long as he's in the White House and enjoys a Democratic majority in the Senate.
At a press conference Tuesday, Obama said that the habit of governing by crisis has become a drag on the economy, and he's right.
And the worst may still be ahead. A similar clash between the parties looms over lifting the debt ceiling by mid-October, with the risk being a U.S. debt default — the first ever.
Who said this Congress isn't making a lasting name for itself?