In Defence Of The Obamacare Defunders

Ted cruz sincere hand over heartAPSen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Last night on his MSNBC show, Chris Hayes
praisedthe Democrats in Colorado’s State Senate who voted for tighter gun restrictions and lost recall elections because they did so:

The importance of politics is not to get politicians elected, as an end to itself, but the point is to win tangible improvements in people’s lives. Progressive victories only come when we push the system right up to the edge it can take. And the risk you run when you do that is some people will lose some elections. And you know what? That is ok. Life goes on. Victories, the right kinds of victories, those endure.

If you swap the word “progressive” in Hayes’ statement for “conservative,” that could be Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) talking about Obamacare.

Over the last few days a lot of Republican political operatives have been griping, and liberals have been crowing, about how conservative activists and congressmen are being so “unreasonable” by insisting on defunding Obamacare as a condition to keeping the government open. Establishment Republican operatives in D.C. have a different agenda — they want to keep discretionary spending down and admit defeat, at least implicitly, on Obamacare — and the defunding push is interfering with their efforts.

Establishment Republicans point out that the “defund Obamacare” strategy is doomed. If Republicans shut down the government over a demand that Obamacare be defunded, they’ll become hugely unpopular, and then they’ll eventually “have” to reopen the government on Democrats’ terms, with Obamacare still going into effect and more money being spent across the government than Republicans could have otherwise demanded.

But why does becoming hugely unpopular mean you have to fold? If House Republicans are really and truly willing to die on the hill of defunding Obamacare, they can do it. Nobody can make them bow to popular opinion and pass a continuing resolution that funds Obamacare implementation. House Republicans can shut down the government all the way to January 2015 and force a default on government bonds if they have the resolve to do so. They would tank the economy and lose the 2014 elections in the process, but the important victories do not come without costs.

The GOP establishment’s objection to this — it would be a substantively terrible policy choice that would also cost them their jobs — appears superficially like it makes sense. But conservative activists sent Republicans to Washington to break the government, not to find ways to make it work over conservative objections. The incompatibility of Republican leaders’ goals with their base’s priorities isn’t the base’s fault.

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