This is a difficult period for many Democrats. They don’t know quite what to do.
They see the Republicans heading for disaster — one that might well take the country along for the bumpy ride — but some Democrats could have a hard time summoning the will to stop them. Because, well, why would they?
It’s not just that shutting down the government would work no better for today’s group of Republicans than it did for Newt Gingrich’s gang in 1995.
It’s not just that the bizarre threat to refuse to raise the debt ceiling — and thereby refuse to pay the country’s bills — would be catastrophically self-destructive.
And it’s not even that if one or the other happens, Republicans will take such a hit that it could cost them the House in 2014. (Don’t quote me on this. Go to Karl Rove or the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Both have settled on kamikaze as the Tea Party-driven metaphor of choice. Republican Rep. Peter King goes even further, invoking Custer, Gallipoli and kamikaze. It’s a Republican civil war that the Tea Party could win — and then lose, ruinously.)
But here’s the thing that must tempt Obama and Democrats to stand aside and let Republicans do what they’ve been threatening for years now: It may be the one way to get the country to take another look at Obamacare. Because this latest phony-baloney crisis is not about the debt and it’s not about government programs. This is all about the fantasy that threats would force President Obama to defund his signature law. We know Obama has the blinks, but this is a blink-free zone. Again, this is not my theory. This is Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s theory. Written in the Weekly Standard, no less. I’m serious.
Obamacare’s fate was sealed by Obama’s re-election. Nothing will change there. But here’s the real Republican risk: What if being an Obamacare defunder were to become synonymous with being pro-shutdown or pro-deadbeat?
Could any of this actually happen? Do you have to ask?
The House will pass a continuing resolution today to keep the government going for a few months, but without funding Obamacare. You can hear the cheering now. You can wait for the catch in the throats later. The bill will go to the Senate, which will find a way to strip the Obamacare stuff and then send it back to the House, where Speaker John Boehner will be in the ultimate lose-lose position. If the bill dies, the government stops and Republicans will get the blame. If the bill passes with mostly Democrats and a few Republicans, the government continues and Boehner gets the blame — from the Tea Partiers — and probably loses his job.
It will all happen by Oct. 1, with the debt ceiling vote coming only a few weeks later. This is how our government works today.
We know Republicans hate Obamacare. There are a variety of reasons. One, it’s called Obamacare. Two, it’s socialized medicine or something, although hardly anyone says that anymore because it’s so obviously untrue. Three, it’s called Obamacare. And then there’s No. 4, which is a little more difficult to figure. Either Republicans think that government intrusion will ruin the delivery of medicine in America or they think Americans might actually like Obamacare once it’s fully introduced. Or both.
Ted Cruz, the Texas Tea Party senator most often credited/blamed with stirring up the House to go nuts on this, conceded the point a few months back, saying (credit here to EJ Dionne for noticing) in an interview on Fox News, “If we’re going to repeal it, we’ve got to do so now or it will remain with us forever.”
Once the exchanges and subsidies start working, Cruz said, people will get “hooked on Obamacare so that it can never be unwound.”
You can see the problem. Obamacare needs to work, but there won’t be death panels, the government won’t be telling you who your doctor is, people will be covered despite pre-existing conditions, parents can keep their kids on their plan until the kids reach 26. Yeah, people are going to notice. Yeah, some people could get hooked, even the mandated people.
And so, you see desperation happening. A Koch brothers-related group called Generation Opportunity has offered up a pair of videos designed to scare insurance-free young people from signing up with the exchanges because Obamacare only works if healthy young people are in the program. In one video, there’s a young woman getting a gynecological exam and in another there’s a young man (looking eerily like Kevin Bacon in Animal House) waiting for a rectal exam. In both cases, a creepy Uncle Sam replaces the doctor and prepares to gleefully violate the patients. Yes, really. Here’s the message: It’s better to go uninsured than to have the government, uh, rape you. Kids, huh?
The videos have predictably gone viral. The viewing nation — I think I can speak for the nation this once — is creeped out. If these guys are against Obamacare, you have to consider giving it another look.
We’re down to the wire. The signup for the Obamacare exchanges begins Oct. 1 — the same day, in a neat coincidence, the House could decide to shut the government down. My guess is the Republicans will blink in the end. Either way, we’ll begin to see what’s working and what’s not.
[ Image via YouTube ]