A Civil War with Two Winners

Obamacare continued its steamrolling path forward, rolling out per its original schedule with no impediment by Congressional Republicans. And in some ways, that turned out to be the greatest Christmas gift of all. The launch of the web site was a disaster to be sure, but that was only the frosting on the cupcake. Insurance companies began to announce that the plans Obama promised you could keep would be cancelled. Those “lucky” few who managed to navigate the web site found that the available plans were more expensive than previously described and the coverage was generally worse. Working stiffs with group plans through their employers saw their premiums rising to pay for the new demands of the federal government master. As the machine began to buckle under its own malfunctioning weight, the message started to clarify: conservative policy groups were not the greatest threat to Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act was its own worst enemy. The popularity of the plan -- and the president --plummeted to new lows and Americans slowly but surely began to forget about the government shutdown which had been all the rage just a few weeks earlier.

Names such as Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan and Mark Pryor crept into the news, not for their unlikely popularity, but as the most endangered Democrats in the 2014 Senate elections, dragged down almost entirely by the weight of the Obamacare albatross around their necks. Apparently the House leadership was paying attention to this lesson, and when the time came for another deal, the “civil war” was on. Paul Ryan himself spoke the fateful words during the run-up to the vote, saying, “We are going to have to win some elections, and in the meantime let's try and make this divided government work."

Unfortunately, in the opinion of a number of Republicans and conservatives caught in the previous paradigm, this was still akin to heresy. But that number was smaller than many observers feared, with the final tally on the GOP side coming in at 169 to 62 in favor of the agreement. And yet 62 was enough for the media to continue raving on their favorite genre of news stories… GOP domestic violence. Talking about Republican Party infighting is still all the rage among cable news talking heads, far preferable to stories about the potential of the Democrats losing the Senate in another mid-term lambasting.

But if a modicum of time is allowed to pass and the Democrats are given sufficient rope, the media will run out of other material and be forced to focus yet again on the true story of the day. This will require a bit more work on the starboard side of the political ship, however.  More of the GOP needs to drag themselves out of the sweat lodges, put away the peyote, and breathe the fresh air. The idea that John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are all part of some top secret cabal of deep cover liberal moles who hold clandestine meetings in the southern part of France, plotting an agenda to raise taxes and expand the federal government, is too far into tin-foil-hat territory to discuss.

The differences between the so called “establishment GOP” and these outside groups are found in tactics, not purpose. If the leadership is signaling anything here, it’s simply that they’ve concluded that this is a battle best fought when there are more weapons in the armory rather than perishing today with the last few grenades in the ammo bag. And to do that, they are seeking to bank some public support by conducting the public’s business now and carrying that into the mid-term elections.

The possibilities of the Republican Party controlling both chambers of Congress for Barack Obama’s final two years may seem foreign to those who find it difficult to remember as far back as 2005. The experience of it, however, might turn out to be preferable to a continuing series of battles where the only goal seems to be selecting which hill to die on next. Rather than vilifying them, it’s time to recognize that both sides of this debate are working toward the same goals, and in this civil war, both sides could come out winners starting in January of 2015.