This is the 18th time since 1977 the federal government has been "shut down," which suggests Democrats and journalists exaggerate the harm they do.
That's in part because "shutdowns" haven't lasted long -- from one to 21 days, an average of a little more than six.
The longest -- from Dec. 5, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996 -- came when President Bill Clinton balked at GOP demands for a balanced budget. Mr. Clinton won the standoff, but after Republicans capitulated he did submit a balanced budget plan.
Democrats are so confident that this "shutdown" will end as that one did that they're refusing to negotiate with Republicans. But even if Republicans lose this battle, they're poised to win the war.
Few Americans are hurt by the "shutdown." All essential services go on. Checks go out for Social Security and other entitlement programs. To call this a "shutdown" is, said the Clinton Justice Department, "an entirely inaccurate description."
Mainly impacted are the roughly 800,000 (of 2.1 million) federal employees deemed "nonessential," who are put on unpaid leave. Democrats get much of their campaign funds from public employee unions, so don't expect Republicans to shed tears for furloughed workers.
In 1995, Republicans were beguiled by polls indicating Americans wanted spending cut and the budget balanced. But however much Americans want this in the abstract, their zeal fades rapidly when it means cuts in programs they like.
This "shutdown" is over Obamacare, which most Americans dislike.
Credit for the focus on Obamacare belongs to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for the masterful 21-hour speech he delivered on the Senate floor week before last.
Sen. Cruz insisted then that Republicans shut down the government in what would have been a futile effort to defund Obamacare. That would have had catastrophic consequences for the GOP. But the silver-tongued Texan is now on board with the leadership's strategy of seeking a one-year delay.
By margins of 2 to 1 or greater, Americans oppose shutting down the government to defund Obamacare, three polls last week indicated. But they support, 55-35, GOP efforts to delay it, according to a poll this week.
Labor unions and other Democratic-leaners with buyer's remorse are not ready (yet) to give up on Obamacare completely, but they demand big changes. Since the Obamacare rollout has made clear that it is not ready for prime time, their numbers will increase.
Democrats fear any delay would "open the door to devastating consequences for the law," wrote Ben Terris of the National Journal.
Delay the individual mandate, and the whole thing could fall apart, according to Linda Blumberg of the Urban Institute.
It would be embarrassing for them to climb down now, but Democrats may be worse off if they "win."
"If (Republicans) manage to extract a concession from Senate Democrats in exchange for voting to approve a continuing resolution to fund the government's operations, then they've won," wrote Ira Stoll in the New York Sun.
If Republicans fold, they also win, because then "Americans will actually get a chance to see for themselves what a train wreck Obamacare is," Mr. Stoll argued.
Republicans may not give in -- at least for a while -- even though what Marxists call the "correlation of forces" is heavily against them. Democrats have the White House, the Senate and much of the news media spinning madly on their behalf.
Americans blame Republicans more for the "shutdown," polls indicate, but by smaller margins than in the past. Most of the few who will suffer real pain typically vote Democratic. Now that Republicans have united on delaying Obamacare -- which is popular, and after all the glitches we've seen during the rollout, prudent -- all the rouge and lipstick the news media applies can only partially conceal that it's Democrats who are being intransigent.
A prolonged standoff will hurt Republicans. But Democrats may have more at risk. The higher Obamacare's profile, the worse they look. Thanks to Sen. Cruz, every vulnerable Democrat in the Senate has voted to inflict upon Americans Obamacare provisions even they say are stupid and harmful.
The really big danger for Democrats, though, is that Americans may discover they can get along just fine without the "services" of all those "non-essential" federal employees.jackkelly
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1476).