Sep 25 2013

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The Birth of a Republican Disaster

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Numbers Don't Lie...

Numbers Don’t Lie…

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.


  1. grossyi

    Let’s continue with the “cold eye”. For the Republicans to have the majority needed to over ride a Presidential veto requires 67 votes in the senate. They currently have 46. Even without Tea Party theatrics, can the Republicans realistically gain 21 votes in the Senate in the next election? How about in the 2016 elections? And then win the Presidential race while maintaining the majority in the house and gaining the super majority in the Senate in 2018. And that is suposing the Republicans can find a presidential candidate that isn’t dead or at least doesn’t smell that way. There is a lot of supposition there and at least four more years for Obama Care to wreck havoc on the American economy and the world’s economy. The Republicans must stand firm NOW. Shutting down the government is short term pain for long term gain, an equitable trade off. Defund Obama Care now, do not raise the debt ceiling and balnce the budget. PERIOD. It must happen eventually, let not history say this generation passed a tainted buck to the future generations. FIX IT NOW. Thank for the opportunity.

    1. duffysoa

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post and to thoughtfully respond.

      This is one of those occasions where everyone agrees on the goal, but are canyons apart on the means.

      Obamacare has never commanded a majority of popular support. A big part of the reason for that is the way that the Democrats passsed it. “Cash for Cloture,” extra-parliamentary procedures, a party-line vote to approve the bill over the the very specific objections of the American people. Democrats back then said the means justified the ends. Bit it only created a huge fault line in our polity.

      Now Republican attempts to defund are rooted in the Democratic Obamacare approval model. Precedent-setting (and unusual) use of the debt limit to change public policy, party line votes, and in opposition to the wishes of the majority of the American people.

      At the end of the day, consent of the governed is the best measure of future success in any policy initiative. Obama didn’t have in in 2010, and Republicans don’t have it today. To say that we know better about the impact of Obamacare, or the choice between the debt limit/gov’t shut down and Obamacare, than the American people is just as arrogant as Democrats saying they knew better than average folks on the need for the Obamacare reform. Indeed, the American people are with the GOP on the law, they just don’t want to shut down the government or start an international panic by breaching the debt limit to kill it.

      I think the correct strategy is to do what we can now. Small steps. Force Congress to abide by Obamacare as intended – and give up its special waiver. Force the Democrats to go on record against a 1 year delay in the personal mandate to match the President’s own, unilateral decision to delay the business mandate. Repeal the medical tax. These are much more painful votes for Democrats, than Obamacare repeal writ large.

      Look, we lost in ’12. Against my better judgement, I got behind Mitt Romney in large part because he said that he would repeal Obamacare. To me, that was the defining issue of the campaign. We did not effectively make our case. Even while oppposing Obamacare, the American people thought they were safer in Obama’s hands than Romney’s cause he could relate to people like them. The GOP has bigger problems it needs to solve. Problems that will only get bigger if they insist on the current course.

      The two, best chances to kill Obamacare were SCOTUS in ’11 and Election’12. Opponents of the law lost both. Hostage taking now, where the balance of power is not in the GOP favor, where there is no groundswell of public support for the GOP course, is a pathway to disaster.

      If the GOP really has the courage of its convictions, it will bite off what it can chew on Obamacare, vote against it at every turn, but allow the law to go into effect. If we truly believe that it will be the nightmare we have envisioned, the American people will respond. Legitimacy is confirmed in elections. If the GOP can make the case, marshall the expected outrage over Obamacare and channel it into 2014, and win seats – take over the Senate – they will have a mandate. The public will have spoken in a way they are not doing now.

      You’re right on the overall numbers. Not even under the best of circumstances can I see the GOP winning a veto proof majority in the Senate, let a lone the House, where Democrats are probably guaranteed between 170-190 seats. But a mandate, with a united Congress allows the GOP to chip away at Obamacare, the more outrage, the more that can be done.

      Which brings up a crucial element in all of this. Repeal is not enough. The GOP needs a viable alternative. Right now they don’t have one. While Obamacare is unpopular as a law, some of its provisions are very popular – kids on parents policy until 26, no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. The GOP needs to grapple with this and form a market based solution that incorporates what the public likes. Candidly, I believe the exchanges – which resemble the Federal Employee Health Benefit System to which I was once a part – a market place of plans at different costs that you can choose from – is not a bad foundation – so long as you get rid of the government control and the IPAB.

      Lets have a referendum on Obamacare on ’16. Let Hillary Clinton defend it, or whomever the D’s put up. By then the GOP should have a very well refined alternative that is credible, and corrects all the distortions and consequences of the law as currently written.

      Obamacare is a disaster. But so is every other Obama policy, from Greenhouse gases, to tax reform, to entitlement reform, to energy policy. The list gets very long. We should be booming right now. Proper tax and spending policies and predictability in government regulation would free the trillions that the private sector has socked away, creating a new boom. Fracking is a revolution in its own right, with a huge employment upside and the chance for the US to become energy independent. Yet, directly because of the President, we are in the middle of a lost decade that will have profound impacts on our society. Obamacare is a symptom of a much larger problem in our society that keeps voting for what it cannot afford, or what sounds good but is not practical. We should not draw a red line on one policy and say that it alone is what we are bettingn the house on with a pair of twos.

      One last note on precedent.

      I hate what the GOP is doing because it will come back to bite us. The GOP course has made it ok to hold the debt limit hostage to policy. BIG policy. It is not unreasonable that a future Democratic Congress is dealing with a Republican president, demanding a tax increase “for social justice reasons” in order to get a debt limit increase. The GOP goal is to close the deficit, but even that will take years to achieve. It cannot be done overnight. Now our borrowing authority has become a political football. It is bad politics and horrendous policy.

      That’s my 2 cents.

      Thanks again for writing and sharing.


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