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Elections are basically extended reminders to partisans about why they hate the other party. By the end, most everyone heads back to their respective corners…And so long as they stay away from this kind of brinksmanship going forward they probably wrapped this episode up early enough that it won’t be worth much a year from now.
This is probably true – already in February it seems as though the shutdown, all-consuming in its moment, has fast faded behind 100 daily news cycles.
But I think it’s also beside the point. Most Americans have a partisan affiliation, or at least a very strong preference, whether they’re willing to admit it or not, and median voter theory and economic fluctuations turn out to do a fairly decent job of projecting election outcomes over the short term. The interesting question for me, though, is why people develop the partisan affiliations they do?
One thing we do know is that partisan affiliations developed in youth harden and are hard to shake even over a lifetime. And what shapes those initial affiliations? Without trying to be overly definitive, it is hard not to believe that events and circumstances prevailing at the time that a young person is developing their civic awareness do not have a substantial effect. And it’s hard to imagine the epic failfest that was last October’s shutdown not being that kind of event, even if in the short-to-medium term its electoral effect is negligible.
What I’m saying is, when middle-aged millennials turn out in droves for Fluke in ’40 we can thank Ted Cruz for that.