Other views: Blame for shutdown belongs to select lawmakers
The Lincoln Memorial is swathed in police-line tape, national parks are closed from the Everglades in Florida to Mount Denali in Alaska, and an estimated 800,000 federal employees have packed up potted plants and gone home indefinitely.
So who's to blame? Is it the group of roughly two dozen hardline conservative Republican House members that Speaker John Boehner is afraid to cross, who are passionate to repeal a health care law they're trying to make unpopular? Or is it simply "Washington?"
A recent Gallup poll suggests Americans have lost confidence in the federal government's ability to handle domestic problems, with a historically low 42 percent saying they have "a great deal or a fair amount" of trust in it.
The pollster noted there is always a partisan split on the question, depending on perceptions of the party holding the presidency.
A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, found 72 percent of its respondents opposed to shutting down the government in an effort to stop the Affordable Care Act from moving forward, even though almost half don't like the reforms many call "Obamacare."
David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, said that "while most voters are blaming Washington, Washington should blame voters" for clustering in like-minded areas and failing to nominate consensus-minded candidates in party primaries.
He said the situation in the past 20 years has created safe districts where the incentive has been to play to a primary, rather than a general election audience. "That's created the crisis we have now."
"Of course people blame Washington," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money's influence on public policy. "Who else would they logically blame but the people who have the power to make this decision?" But, she added, "they should also realize that their own votes on Election Day are collectively what brought us here."
Political analyst Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said that most people took note of the shutdown only after it began.
"Now that Washington has their attention, Americans will focus a bit on this contrived crisis," Sabato added. "Already, people disproportionately blame the GOP in Congress. ... Having made their point about Obamacare, and having assured it will again be a major issue in 2014, the Republicans would be wise to stop the highly unpopular shutdown before it goes on so long that voters will remember in 2014."
Partisans will always blame their opponents for failures. But the legislators who've made extending funding for the new fiscal year contingent upon defunding or delaying Obamacare -- a law already on the books and ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court -- aren't just a dysfunctional "Washington." They have names, and they are up for re-election next year.
The Scripps Howard News Service Editorial Board formed this opinion.