In mounting their case against Senators Ted Cruz, House conservatives, and the grass-roots campaign to defund Obamacare, the Republican establishment and its like-minded scribes pound an oft-repeated talking point into conventional wisdom: Cruz cannot win.
In this telling, the senator has recklessly embarked on a populist campaign that taps into public anger over Obamacare but has no winning endgame. The Beltway clerisy elaborates that Cruz and his defunding partner, Senator Mike Lee, have failed to account for the Democratic majority and procedural rules that control the Senate. These purportedly immovable obstacles guarantee that the defunding measure they spurred the House to pass cannot be enacted into law. Therefore, conventional wisdom now holds, the only outcomes Cruz & Co. can hope for are (a) an ignominious, demoralizing defeat that will strengthen President Obama’s hand or (b) a stalemate between the House, on the one hand, and the Senate and Obama, on the other — a stalemate that will result in a government shutdown that, in turn, will grievously harm Republican electoral prospects.
There is a good deal wrong with this analysis. I’ve already described some of it in a recent post, and there will be more to say on it. But I want to explore a different topic that the establishment potshots at Cruz, Lee and House conservatives have obscured:
What is the GOP establishment’s strategy for undoing Obamacare?
No conservative supporter of defunding suggests that the defunding strategy is a sure thing. It involves orchestrating a high-stakes confrontation that spotlights Obamacare’s calamitous consequences and corrupt insider deals. The resulting political pressure — coupled with the fact that even Obamacare supporters concede the program is not ready for implementation — must be intense enough to convince congressional Democrats and the president that fighting to fund the program at this time is not in their interests.
No doubt, this is an uphill fight. Yet, conservative defunding proponents are not mounting it idly. They have an urgent reason for acting now, despite the challenges. Obamacare subsidies start to pour out next week. Once government “entitlements” begin, the likelihood of their ever being withdrawn is nil. Thus, if Obamacare is not stopped right now, it will not be stopped — we will be burdened for years, probably permanently, with its catastrophic effects on both our already reeling economy and the quality of American health care.
If conservatives are right about this, we are in desperate times and defunding, even if it prompts a risky government shutdown, is the only desperate measure available — the only chance of success, however uncertain the chance may be.
The Republican establishment disagrees, insisting that the defunding plan pushed by Cruz, Lee and House conservatives is implausible. Fine … but then, what is the establishment’s plausible plan?