The Ted Cruz Shutdown Is Looking like the Charge of the Light Brigade

Apparently, if anyone can make Americans love Obamacare, it’s Ted Cruz.


Just look at the polls. There are brutal numbers for the GOP in a new Fox News poll, confirming numbers from an earlier Quinnipiac poll. Obama’s job approval is up, support for Obamacare is up (opposition running at just 47-45 in the Q poll), approval of Republicans in Congress has fallen yet further, and the generic ballot has tilted sharply in favor of Dems (9-point lead in the Q poll). Meanwhile, Americans blame Republicans more than Democrats for the shutdown (although the median voter opts for “both”).

The shutdown would never have happened without Ted Cruz’s quixotic campaign to defund Obamacare. “He pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away,” says Grover Norquist. By wasting time on that doomed quest due to his influence, House Republicans had no backup plan when the continuing budget resolution fell due. At this point, for reasons I discussed in a previous post, it is more likely that the Dems will get concessions from the GOP than the other way around.

How did we get here? Matt Welch accuses the Republican “wacko birds” of bad deadline management, and it’s hard to disagree. But there’s a reason for that bad deadline management, and it’s not actually incompetence so much as ideological intransigence. The new litmus test for conservatism became willingness to defund Obamacare. Tactical disagreements became ideological disagreements. If you didn’t want to waste time trying to defund Obamacare, you were at best a coward and more likely a “RINO,” according to hardline websites like RedState. As Avik Roy has noted,

The common view of Obamacare among conservatives goes something like this. Prior to 2010, America’s free-market health-care system was the envy of the world. Obamacare changed all that; it is a government takeover of our health-care system, of one-sixth of our economy, one that will turn America into a European-style welfare state. That is to say, Obamacare is an existential threat to the American way of life.

If this is your view of Obamacare, then of course it makes sense to shut down the government in order to attempt to defund the law. What’s the point of maintaining a Republican majority in the House in 2014, let alone seeking a majority in the Senate, if the end result is the destruction of the American way of life?

That view of Obamacare is, of course, dead wrong. It’s a mistaken law that moves the country in the wrong direction, but the regulatory framework for health care and health insurance in this country was already badly broken and in need of reform. But damn the facts and fix bayonets!

3 thoughts on “The Ted Cruz Shutdown Is Looking like the Charge of the Light Brigade

  1. Obamacare is “an existential threat to the American way of life.” At least, if you define the American way of life as individual rights and personal responsibility, freedom of choice, control of one’s body, it is. As constitutional legal scholar Randy Barnett has written in a piece published by The Fund for American Studies, Obamacare “involves our relationship with government with respect to our most intimate, most private, and most important aspect of our lives, which is our health. [The reason repeal of] Obamacare is vital to the future of American liberty is that I really believe that once the government owns our doctors, once government controls our medical care, then we become a servile class – we essentially become subjects of government, not citizens.”

    The Republicans may make tactical errors and fail miserably at messaging, and further, the campaign to defund or repeal Obamacare may be quixotic, but it is critically important to try ever means possible to slow it down, stop it, repeal it.

    There are plenty of fallback positions for Republicans to take, including compromises on the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution. And polls are very deceiving with regard to the end game. Stay tuned….

    1. It’s not clear the Republicans entered into this episode with an end game in mind, or, better yet, a couple of possibilities depending on the actions of the other party. It appears to me that the only action left for them is retreat.

      How could they have ever expected to get denial of funding or a one year delay approved by the Senate and signed by the President who’s name is part of the nickname for the program? A fools errand, at best.

      The miscalculation and incompetence is astonishing.

  2. One aspect of this that needs a focus is the failure of the President to understand that his major job is to make sure that laws are to be faithfully executed and that the task of Congress is to support, change, or repeal laws. In that sense the Congress is doing what it has constitutional and moral authority to do. Given the way that the Affordable Care Act was passed, replete with dictatorial moves by the Democratic majority, one can say that the Congress abused its own process and since process matters sowed the seeds of today’s situation. A President who has said many time that process does not matter fails to understand this. On top of that he fails to understand that his broad responsibility to the executive branch, as the executer of laws, means all the laws not just Obamacare. It is inconceivable to me that he would harm the entire executive branch so that he does not have to administer a law,as amended, that he would not want to carry out. My only explanation is that he cares only about his legacy as the President who got Obamacare passed and that the rest of the laws are of secondary importance and that those citizens who depend on those laws do not matter.

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