Republican eyes wide shut
By John PodhoretzOctober 1, 2013 | 9:39pm
The preferred Twitter hashtag, or slogan, for the conservatives who insisted there could be no deal on the federal budget without killing ObamaCare was #dontblink.
Turns out this was the perfect slogan, but not for the reasons they thought.
If you don’t blink, you get things in your eyes that obscure and distort your vision. And eventually, those foreign objects will blind you.
That’s what has happened with segments of the Right this year; they have blinded themselves. And since they’ve fashioned themselves leaders of others, in their blindness they have marched themselves and their followers off a cliff.
It gives me no pleasure to say this. I am no less an opponent of ObamaCare than those who have raged against it. I’ve written thousands of words against it and (in a magazine I edit) published tens of thousands of words dismantling it. I enjoy hearing arguments against it made as fluently as Sen. Ted Cruz made them last week in his pointless pseudo-filibuster.
But what these blind fools have done is make the case against ObamaCare more difficult to advance. They’ve made it less likely that ObamaCare will eventually be revoked and replaced. In seeking to extirpate the president’s signature piece of legislation, they’ve played into the president’s hands and weakened their own.
And they’ve done so, moreover, while insisting that people who warned them against this idiocy were sellouts and weaklings. Ted Cruz called any vote other than the votes he cast “a vote for ObamaCare,” including those taken by rock-ribbed conservatives like Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
One number exposed their folly yesterday: 72 percent.
That was the number of respondents who say the government should not have been shut down to derail ObamaCare. This in a poll that shows the public opposes ObamaCare, 47-45.
Other polls show even greater opposition to the health law (also yesterday: A CNN poll found 52 percent of the American people say ObamaCare “is a disaster waiting to happen”). So imagine that 72 percent figure is high by 10 points. That still means 62 percent of Americans oppose the shutdown as the Republicans have framed it. That’s a rout. That’s a dreadful number. That’s political Armageddon.
The other popular hashtag promulgated by the Cruzians last week was #MakeDCListen. What DC was supposed to listen to was the voice of America screaming out against ObamaCare.
Well, yes, ObamaCare is unpopular — by far the most unpopular piece of domestic legislation since the passage of another health-care bill, the Catastrophic Care Act of 1988. (That act was repealed, thus giving the lie to everyone who says ObamaCare can’t be.)
According to the Real Clear Politics average, ObamaCare is viewed unfavorably by 51 percent and favorably by only 39 percent. Those are terrible numbers, to be sure, but they’re far better numbers than the Republicans are going to see during the shutdown, as the polls already reveal.
One claim abroad on the Right is that what Cruz & Co. did was noble because they made an issue out of ObamaCare and put it right in the center of the American debate.
This is so absurd it’s almost impossible not to laugh at the claim. ObamaCare has been the most important legislative issue in US politics for four years now — and it would’ve been front and center this week in any case, since its so-called “exchanges” rolled out Tuesday (to disastrous and comic effect).
It’s not clear whether the Cruzians deluded themselves into believing they were in a stronger position to prevail against Obama this week than was the case, or whether they were acting out of more cynical motives.
After all, Cruz has presidential ambitions. And the groups supporting him are seeking to achieve ideological and financial dominance in the weakened Republican Party orbit going forward.
Principled or cynical, what they’ve done is tarnish the GOP brand and make themselves and the party look silly at best and crazy at worst — and the only means by which ObamaCare can be derailed is if Republicans can win enough Senate seats in 2014 and 2016 and win the presidency in 2016 as well.
What happened this week made that harder to achieve. Or, to put it another way: A vote with Ted Cruz was a vote for ObamaCare.