Why Do Conservatives Keep Threatening to Shut Down the Government?

Sen. Mike Lee is vehement that there will not be another government shutdown to stop President Obama from taking executive action on immigration. But, there's a good reason why the shutdown spectre keeps popping up time and again.

Sahil Kapur writes at Talking Points Memo that conservatives can't "quit" threatening a shutdown for a few key reasons.

  • The Republican base is hungry for a confrontation with President Obama – A Pew poll released last week found that 66 percent of Republicans want leaders to "stand up" to Obama, "even if less gets done in Washington"; just 32 percent said the party should "work with Obama" even if it disappoints some GOP supporters. The party's desire for confrontation is slightly higher than it was in 2010.
  • Many Republican voters see immigration as an existential threat to the U.S. – Immigration and Obamacare trigger similarly profound anxieties among the tea party base. Both are seen as defining battles for the soul of the country, according to an extensive 2013 study by Democracy Corps. The study said these Republicans believe Obama wants to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants in order to create a larger base for the Democratic Party and throw conservatism into the dustbin of American history.
  • Republican leaders tend to stoke the GOP base's anger for their political benefit, but it sometimes turns against them – In the run-up to the 2013 shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner had spent years fanning the flames of dissent against Obamacare, which included dozens of repeal votes in the House and frequent expressions of outrage labeling it an unconstitutional law that will ruin the country's health care system. Then, when the tea party pushed him to take extraordinary measures in 2013 to stop it, he told them it wasn't worth it. But that rang hollow to them and so they turned their anger against Republican leadership. It was put-up-or-shut-up time, and Boehner was forced to put up.