Washington (AFP) – Almost no one will limp off the scorched earth of Washington’s latest political debacle boasting of a clear win.
Instead, the aftermath of a debt default near miss and 16-day government shutdown is turning into a game of “Who is the biggest loser?”
Republicans trashed their own political brand, President Barack Obama saw his approval ratings sink, and America flirted with squandering its reputation as the world’s financial safe haven.
“There are no winners here,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. For once, the spin reflected political reality.
Politicians, rarely popular, emerged from the crisis with their pariah status enhanced. America’s national mood, drained of quintessential optimism by a decade of war and recession, darkened a little more.
“An anti-incumbent feeling… has only strengthened,” said Lara Brown of the Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University.
“There is a desire, pretty much, to throw out all of the Washington establishment.”
A Gallup poll last week put Congress’s approval rating at 11 percent and a Pew Research survey found 81 percent of Americans dissatisfied with their country’s direction.
The Republican Party, yet to fix its habit of alienating young, women and minority voters which cost it last year’s presidential election took the most stinging blow.
Bristling with bravado, House Republicans picked the shutdown and debt ceiling fight as a way to force the president to defund or delay his health law, so-called Obamacare.
They failed on both counts and Obama stood firm on not being held to “ransom” on raising borrowing authority so America could pay its bills.
In the process, Republicans tore internal divisions even wider.
Even conservative senators are disdainful of the nihilistic tactics of their House brethren.
“The way we’re behaving and the path we’ve taken over the last couple of weeks leads to a marginalized party in the eyes of the American people, a form of conservatism that is probably beyond what the market would bear,” said Senator Lindsey Graham.
House Speaker John Boehner, unable to control his raging caucus, became almost a pitiful figure and may now be party leader in name only.
Obama, weakened in the eyes of the world, can at least stay he stood on principle.
But the short-term nature of the government funding compromise agreed on Wednesday will store up a future political battle.
Obama was embarrassed by having to cancel an important Asia trip during the standoff — after already seeping global authority over his handling of Syria.