The Logic of the Alamo

Nothing is certain about the future, though some things are highly probable. It is virtually certain, for instance, that Obamacare will be a dog in its initial years, if not indefinitely: the software supporting it is bug-ridden; none of its tested parameters have shown any sign of coming close to the promised spec; the premiums are costing more than predicted; and just complying with its rules has proved "unexpectedly" crippling.

Obamacare is no different from any other federal project that is beset with overruns, underspec performance, and scandal. As in those cases, it is a question of showing the buyers the carefully choreographed graphics while leaving the bad news for the last, after the customer has signed on the dotted line.

A virtual certitude -- according to GOP establishment types, per Andy McCarthy -- is that you are doomed to buy this lemon whether you like it not, whether you oppose it or not, come what may. Obamacare is legislatively unstoppable, its defects notwithstanding:

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.

There's just too much money to be skimmed from it to stop now, or so the thinking goes. Taken together, these two probabilities imply that the single degree of freedom open to political actors is whom to blame for what is almost certainly a train wreck. As Obama himself argued, it all comes to down to who takes credit and who gets blame.

He said in a speech that “once it’s working really well, I guarantee you they will not call it Obamacare.” He forgot to say that by the same token, once it collapses in a pile of ruin he will refer to it "as the perfect future health program that Ted Cruz smashed."

Since the argument is all about the future, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal advises Republicans to concede the present and trust in Providence. Give way before the Democratic juggernaut now, the better to counterattack later when Obamacare collapses under its own weight:

Republicans and conservatives, instead of tilting at the defunding windmill, should be working now to present the American people with the policy ideas that will emerge inevitably when Obamacare's declines. The system of private insurance exchanges being adopted by the likes of Walgreens suggests a parallel alternative to ObamaCare may be happening already.

But Obama has already thought of that, which is why he wants the Republicans to compromise now so he can share the blame with them when the wheels fall off. Can't you just hear the words now: "We sought bipartisan consensus ... even John McCain stood with me on this podium"?  You will, in due time. So it may be of little good to the Republicans to sell out their principles now in the hopes of upholding their principles later. Certainly producing Henninger's article to justify the strategem of  "retreating in order to later attack" seems unlikely to work.

The fight over Obamacare is a classic case of where the future position matters more than the present one; about how the billiard balls lie after the current stroke. The relevant questions are about how the board will look when the pieces have netted out. These are the calculations that should be running through the GOP's head. Instead, their thinking is probably governed by a vague conventional wisdom, like don't repeat the mistake of the 1995 shutdown.

In truth, beyond the facts that Obamacare is almost certainly going to be disastrous and the GOP can't stop it, almost nothing else is certain.