Well, as of this writing, Ted Cruz is still at it – talking a blue streak on the Senate floor.
He and his Cruzian acolytes are calling it a filibuster, but that’s not really accurate. A filibuster is employed to delay a vote. Cruz’s talkathon will do no such thing. Sometime today, after the prescribed 30 hours of “debate,” Harry Reid will call for a cloture vote on the CR that defunds Obamacare and he will get the 60 votes he needs to do so. He will then amend the CR ,stripping out the defunding language, and pass the revised, “clean” CR on a simple majority, completely consistent with Senate rules.
Cruz’s actions will have been nothing more than an aberration; filler for the cameras between votes.
Of course, it is grand political theater, as we pass the time, that is going to play awfully well with the grassroots. It is also an unwitting, C-SPAN funded in-kind contribution to the Cruz for President campaign, even if no one will admit that yet. But the truth is that Cruz’s spectacle will not move the ball forward on the Senator’s professed goal of defunding Obamacare. He knew that before he started this charade, which only steeps his professed ador to defund Obamacare in the stench of cynical opportunism. The grassroots will miss that, but its clear to see here, for anyone who actually knows how Congress works. Ted Cruz is many things, but a Jimmy Stewart-esque warrior for the common man is not one of them.
But by his actions, Cruz embodies the contradictions, the opportunism and the emerging death wish that is now engulfing the Republican Party writ large.
As predicted on these pages seven weeks ago, Democrats are now honing political messages to deploy against the GOP if the clock runs out and government shutters its doors on Monday. Distilled, it goes something like this, “Extremist Republicans are threatening American economic security to prevent the poor and uninsured from getting health insurance.”
Whatever you think you know about the debate over Obamacare and the budget, this is the winning narrative.
Indeed, Democrats can hardly believe their good fortune.
Until this summer, almost all major issues were trending against them, likely leading to Republican gains in 2014 – including the real possibility of reclaiming the Senate. Now, however, House Conservatives and Senators such as Cruz, et.al., are hell-bent on action that will change the political narrative decisively in favor of the Democrats.
Instead of having to defend themselves on a sluggish economy, high unemployment, middling growth, explosive spending and the miasma of Obamacare in action, Democrats will now simply blame any bad economic news on the ripples of Republican obstruction, and cast the 2014 vote as a choice between manic and untrustworthy Republicans versus moderate and stable Democrats who only want to keep the government running, pay our bills and execute our laws.
An America that is weary of partisan obstruction and just wants the government to do its job will be uniquely conducive to such a message. Why? Because as much as Americans dislike Obamacare, they oppose a government shutdown or debt default to defund the law even more. In such a dynamic, who will the public blame if push comes to shove? President Obama and Democrats who just want to keep the government running and paying its bills, or the GOP hostage takers? The facts here are crystal clear, but remain doggedly unpersuasive to the conservative bomb throwers in Congress who seem intent on a scorched earth policy if they cannot get their way.
The military analogies for the Republican effort are all too clear. The Alamo. Pickett’s charge. Custer’s Last Stand. Gallipoli. All are remembered with a sense of romantic glory. Each a fight against all odds. But that should not obscure the fact that each was a colossal military failure; representing the bankruptcy of leadership, planning and execution. The Mexicans won the Alamo. Pickett’s charge was the beginning of the end of the South. The Sioux beat Custer. Gallipoli was a great victory for the Ottoman empire.
Let’s be cold-eyed here.
For the Republican effort to succeed, in the absence of a Senate Republican majority or a Republican president, an overwhelming number of Americans must be willing to endure a government shut down and/or debt default to kill Obamacare. That support needs to exist before the events are triggered, and most importantly, that support needs to hold up after the genies are uncorked, and the predicted mayhem ensues. Yet it is incontestable that there is no evidence – anywhere – that the public is willing to support this course of action.
Worse, by focusing exclusively on an unattainable goal, Republicans cede their strongest suit as the only adults in the room on deficit and debt reduction, and an emerging trust on economic stewardship. Fiery conservatives are throwing away Republican advantages in a vainglorious push for a pipe dream.
If this was a one-off event, contained and manageable, it could be reasonably be neutralized in the year before the midterms.
But sadly, it is not.
A government shutdown will create a negative perception, and have an economic cost. Breaching the debt limit – particularly since the financial crisis in 2008 – has the potential to wreak havoc not only on Wall Street and Main Street, but in the global economy. It is simply unprecedented in American history for a political party to intentionally crash the US economy for a political/policy objective. When the American people wake up to the real life repercussions of what the Republicans set in motion, the impact on Party could be irreversible for decades.
Republicans were once the Party of ideas. The Party that sought to unlock the enormous potential of the American people to create wealth, expand liberty and defend freedom. How small and petty it has become.Unable to articulate a coherent alternative to Obamaism. Obsessed with numbers instead of outcomes. Unwilling to brook any deal that does not incorporate 100 percent of their demands. Reduced to political hostage taking that will cause harm to the very people they claim to be protecting in their actions.
It speaks volumes that no matter how bad Obama policy is – and it is terrible in every way, across the board - that the President and his party will remain the safer alternative for Americans because of the deliberate actions of a band of uncompromising Republicans.