It’s not easy being a Republican nowadays. A lot of us – me, Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos, Arianna Huffington, among others – left the GOP years ago when political dementia was only starting to set in.
Anyone who wasn’t smart enough to get out early is now dealing with the effects of the full-blown “crazy” that’s taken over the party.
I’d bristled for years at the notion that only “conservative” Republicans were “real” Republicans. But Republicans of all stripes, including GOP moderates (who are possibly the meekest, most spineless creature on God’s green earth), were happy to let the party leaders, and political candidates of all stripes, run around claiming that you weren’t a real Republican unless you were a Ronald Reagan Republican. What they meant, of course, was a “conservative”Republican (in spite of the fact that in today’s far-right GOP, Reagan would be a tax-and-spend Democrat).
Add all of that pandering to the far-right to the GOP’s over-three-decades-long embrace of the Frankenstein monster that is the religious right, and you get a recipe for a pretty messed up political movement controlled by crazies who don’t represent most people in their party, let alone most Americans, but since they’re the only opposition in a two-party system, sane Republicans are stuck deciding between Democrats and crazy.
Flash forward to today. The Republican party, as you may know, has been trying to defund health care reform, aka Obamacare, for a while now. I believe they’re up to 41 failed votes in the House at this point. Their latest brilliant idea is to use the yet-again upcoming budget showdown at the end of this month to hold the entire country hostage unless the President defunds health care reform.
The current “continuing resolution” (CR) funding the government at “sequester” level runs out at the end of the month. The Republicans want to add a provision to the CR that defunds Obamacare, thus the President and Democrats in Congress either accept the CR, and health care reform is defunded, or they kill the CR, and the government shuts down ad infinitum.
The Republicans have also been talking about using the debt ceiling to shut down health care reform too.
Interestingly, rather conservative voices like the Wall Street Journal editorial page are now weighing in against the CR-shutdown plan:
Speaker John Boehner floated a CR with an arcane procedure that would force the Senate to take an up-or-down vote on the anti-ObamaCare component. But pressure groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth rebelled and the vote had to be postponed, like so many other unforced retreats this Congress. Here we go again.
These critics portrayed the Boehner plan as a sellout because of a campaign that captured the imagination of some conservatives this summer: Republicans must threaten to crash their Zeros into the aircraft carrier of ObamaCare. Their demand is that the House pair the “must pass” CR or the debt limit with defunding the health-care bill. Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots.
Things have gotten so bad in conservative Republicanland that now the National Review is publishing emails from the GOP House leadership criticizing the Heritage Foundation (one of the forces behind trying defunding health care reform to the CR).
Part of the problem Republicans face in their anti-Obamacare jihad is that the public’s ambivalence about the program is finally turning around and biting them. While the public isn’t terribly thrilled about “Obamacare,” mostly because they don’t really know what health care reform actually does, their lack of full information also means they, smartly, aren’t sure they want it gone either. They just don’t know enough to know either way.
I suspect, at this point, people are in wait-and-see mode. They’ve heard the Republicans say that health care reform is going to turn America into France (even though, ironically, most Americans don’t realize that France ranks above the US in terms of the overall level of health care). But at the same time, we haven’t seen much evidence of the sky falling down as a result of health care reform’s passage. In the same way that sequester-critics may have overplayed their hands by talking about how bad things would get post-sequester – and then things didn’t get nearly as bad as predicted – Obamacare critics have clearly done the same.
Most provisions of health care reform have yet to be implemented. In fact, the key provision on setting up insurance exchanges begins in two weeks. That’s when we’ll start seeing if Obamacare helps, hurts, or changes nothing. And that’s why the conservatives running the GOP are desperate to using the CR to stop it. They’ve got two weeks to stop Americans from finding out that Obamacare might actually help them.