It’s worth considering the risks and rewards in the budget standoff, which is first and foremost a battle for control of the Republican Party and the shape of the 2014 and 2016 primaries. The Republican Party of John McCain and Mitt Romney lost two presidential elections, the second to a weak candidate in a weak economy. Left to its own devices, it will lose the next presidential election and all the following ones. By picking a fight on Obama’s least popular position, namely health care, the conservative wing of the party galvanized the party base and forced the House leadership into a fight. In a June 27 poll, the Gallup organization found that just 22% of Americans expected Obamacare to improve their family’s health situation, while 47% expected it to make it worse. As my old partner Jude Wanniski used to say, the electorate is like a diamond, waiting to be cut at exactly the right spot. Ted Cruz pointed the chisel correctly.
Opposing a bad program, to be sure, is not the same as building a national majority around a good program. The Republican Party is a long way from that. Just as the conservative wing of the party needed its chance after the Nixon and Ford debacles of the 1970s, the conservative wing of the party needs to take its shot after the abysmal performance of the McCain wing — or there will be no party at all.
It well may be true that shutting down the government hurts the Republicans in the short run. That is immaterial; there is no way to get from here to there except by making a stand against Obamacare. There is no downside, for the Republican Party as presently configured already is a guaranteed loser. A reinvigorated conservative leadership has a chance of leading the party to victory.