In the sentence:

Shutdown shines harsh light on rift in Republican Party

What do they mean?

p.s. "shutdown" here about government shutdown in the US.

  • Who are "they"? Where did you get this?
    – J.R.
    Oct 8, 2013 at 12:48
  • The authors. I've found it on washingtonpost. And it has different headline on main page Oct 8, 2013 at 12:58

2 Answers 2


To begin with, this is a headline, so it leaves out as much as it can get away with to save space and allow the letters to be printed in a larger font. It represents

The shutdown shines a harsh light on a rift in the Republican Party.

You indicate that you understand what is meant by shutdown.

To shine a light on something is to make it more visible or evident. Harsh light is a figure of speech from painting and photography: lighting is described as harsh when it exposes and draws attention to unpleasant features of the subject instead of blurring and "softening" these features.

A rift is a tear or split in something. Here it is employed figuratively to designate a fundamental division in opinion among members of the party.


The shutdown exposes a distressing division in opinion among Republicans [which the party would rather went unnoticed].

  • 1
    It's also worth noting that over recent decades, in the harsh light of day has become an increasingly common "cliche" that usually means when considered more carefully later on. I know that in reality the origins lie in painting/photography, but in practice for me personally, I tend to see it as an allusion to having stayed up late at night [probably drinking alcohol], and having ideas which seemed good at the time, but don't pass muster next day when sober. Oct 8, 2013 at 13:37

Well, as much I can read from that line without further context, I assume the following:

  • There's a rift (or disagreement) in the Republican Party
  • That rift is brought to attention by a "harsh light"
  • That harsh light is emitted by the shutdown

The shutdown is the reason why attention concentrates on the disagreement in the Republican Party


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