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2013 U.S. Government Shutdown refers to the temporary suspension of “non-essential” civil services as a result of a congressional stalemate between the Democrat and Republican legislators over the implementation of Obamacare. The closure began at 12:00 a.m. on October 1st, 2013, the deadline for the passage of the 2014 U.S. federal budget, and ended with the passage of a bipartisan compromise bill just after midnight on October 17th.
In late September 2013, a group of Republican members of the House attempted to remove the federal funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by rewording the typically nonpartisan proposal for the federal budget of the 2014 fiscal year. In order for the bill to pass and for the federal government to continue to receive funding, it needed to be approved by the Democratic majority Senate before October 1st, 2013. An agreement was not reached in time, and the non-essential federal government was shut down for the first time since 1995.
Ted Cruz’s Filibuster
On September 24th, 2013, Republican Texan senator Ted Cruz held a 21-hour filibuster-style speech in the Senate in effort to sway his peers’ opinions on Obamacare. The speech was not technically a filibuster, however, since he was not actually delaying any vote. While arguing against the healthcare reform, the senator also began reading Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” (shown below, left) and singing the praises of fast food restaurant White Castle (shown below, right). However, at the end of the night Cruz ended up voting for the bill, which passed 100-0.
On September 28th, Democratic Representative from Colorado Jared Polis shared a parody of “Green Eggs and Ham” to Facebook titled “What a Sham,” using language from the story to criticize Cruz’s speech. Within two days, it was shared more than 450 times.
During Cruz’s speech, he and other Republicans active on social media launched the hashtag #MakeDCListen to draw attention and support to his work. by the end of his 21 hours, the hashtag had been used more than 500,000 times by members of both parties, including the official White House Twitter account (shown below). Over the next week, the hashtag was used more than 730,000 times. Selected tweets from the hashtag were curated on Town Hall, Western Journalism, Red State and MSNBC.
As early as September 20th, President Barack Obama has criticized Republicans for risking an entire government shutdown over healthcare, reminding Americans that they are more concerned with politics than helping middle-class families. The White House also confirmed that they would veto any bill that comes across the President’s desk defunding the Affordable Care Act. On September 30th, Obama gave a live-streamed statement (shown below) explaining what the shutdown would effect and called the shutdown irresponsible and preventable.
Shortly following the shutdown at 12:01 a.m. on October 1st, Obama tweeted the following:
They actually did it. A group of Republicans in the House just forced a government shutdown over Obamacare instead of passing a real budget.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 1, 2013
The tweet received nearly 30,000 retweets and over 7,000 faves within two hours. During the hours leading up to and following the deadline of the U.S. federal budget on October 1st, mentions of the hashtag #governmentshutdown began to spike, reaching up to 150,000 mentions within the first hours.
Commenters from across the web and both sides of the political spectrum took to sharing image macros to explain the government situation. On September 20th, the Twitter account @AdorableCareAct was created by former Obama staffer Salim Zymet, sharing photos of cute animals with captions highlighting the positive merits of the act. However, these images were quickly countered by Republican Twitter users.
Meanwhile on Reddit, there are more than 1,200 search results for “government shutdown” that have been submitted in 2013. The most popular of these posts was submitted to /r/Politics on September 25th, linking to a Washington Post article which cites a New York Times/CBS News poll that found that 80% of Americans found threatening a government shutdown an unacceptable method of negotiation. The link received more than 13,000 upvotes and 3,500 points overall and nearly 1,500 comments within five days.
On September 30th, Buzzfeed reported a surge in Craigslist ads appearing on the local D.C. site from government employees looking to fill their free time during the shutdown. These ads range from people looking for kissing partners to those seeking a partner to complain about Ted Cruz with. A handful of these ads were also featured on New York Magazine the same day. Between the 29th and the 30th, nearly 60 personals were created seeking shutdown-related encounters.
Around the same time, Twitter user MyWhiteNinja tweeted the hashtags #NoBudgetNoPants and #PantsShutDown, encouraging fellow Americans to take a stance against the government shutdown by refusing to wear pants. Over the course of the next 12 hours, #NoBudgetsNoPants was mentioned at least 3,600 times and dozens of Twitter users began sharing selfies of themselves with poster signs reading “no budget, no pants.” By afternoon on October 1st, the trending hashtag had been picked up by The Daily Dot in an article titled “Twitter protests the government shutdown by taking off its pants.”
On September 30th, 2013, #ShutdownPickUpLines, which first surfaced during the debt-ceiling crisis in early April 2011, began trending on Twitter after National Journal correspondent Elaje Izadi asked her 3,500-plus followers to share their own shutdown-themed pick up lines with the hashtag. That day, it was used more than 2,600 times according to Topsy Analytics. As the disruption continued throughout the first week of October, compilations of both #ShutdownPickUpLines and #GovShutdownPickUpLines tweets were featured on the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, NationalJournal,NPR, USA Today, The Daily Beast and CBS News among many others.
Judd Legum’s Tweet
On October 2nd, ThinkProgress editor-in-chief Judd Legum posted a message criticizing the shutdown via Twitter with a satirical analogy drawn to burning down a house. In the following five days, Legum’s message was retweeted nearly 20,000 times and favorited more than 8,310 times, becoming the “most widely circulated anti-shutdown tweet” to date, according to Gawker.
Can I burn down your house? No Just the 2nd floor? No Garage? No Let's talk about what I can burn down. No YOU AREN'T COMPROMISING!— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 2, 2013
On October 3rd, Pennsylvanian congressman Mike Doyle quoted Legum’s tweet verbatim while urging his colleagues to find a compromise and put an end to the shutdown during a speech he delivered in the House chamber. After reading the tweet, Representative Doyle added:
Mr. Speaker, this is what we’ve been going through: ‘You want a budget for six weeks? Defund Obamacare! Delay Obamacare! Take away the individual mandate from Obamacare! Or, please, just sit down with us and tell us what we can take away from 20 million Americans who need healthcare, and then we’ll reopen the government.’ Let me say to my colleagues: If you would just stop trying to burn down the house, we can talk.
The Sad Kid at The Zoo
On October 10th, Redditor superbonnie submitted a photograph of a toddler in a bear costume standing outside the gates of the National Zoo in an /r/pics post titled “Please Reopen the Government” (shown below). The image instantly struck a chord with the community, soon reaching the front page of Reddit and spreading virally through Twitter and Facebook. In the following days, virtually all U.S. news media outlets highlighted the photograph as the unofficial symbol of the government shutdown.
On September 30th, Motherboard reported that more than 800,000 government workers will be effected by the shutdown, causing the National Parks Service, national museums, passport agencies, veterans benefits, school grant programs, the Centers for Disease Control, scientific research and the Library of Congress to close until an agreement is reached. Because of this, the websites for the Library of Congress, NASA, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Parks Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission will become completely inaccessible to the public. The same day, the Daily Dot reported this closure would include the National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam.
Western Journalism – Senator Cruz’s “Make DC Listen” Filibuster Leaves RINOs In The Dust
New York Magazine – Government Shutdown Has D.C. Looking for Casual Sex on Craigslist
The Daily Dot – If the government shuts down, the Panda Cam will go dark
Reddit – /r/Politics: “Eighty percent of Americans, including 83 percent of independents and 75 percent of Republicans, say threatening a government shutdown is not an acceptable way to negotiate.”