Defunding Obamacare is a great idea and I’m not just saying that because I was the first one to promote the concept in March of 2010. Back then, the GOP Leadership agreed with me with no arm twisting required. John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Cathy McMorris Rodgers all vowed to defund Obamacare if the GOP took back the House. Today, it’s finally going to happen, but only because Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have forced the GOP to stand up and fight.
That being said, it is admittedly unlikely that Barack Obama will agree to defund Obamacare. To make that happen, we’d need a unified GOP caucus and leaders with skill at messaging who could keep the public on our side for months after Obama shuts down the government. We don’t have that, which means we probably can’t achieve our ultimate goal. However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be gained or that the GOP is doomed to take a beating on the issue.
1) We’re nearly on even ground with Obama at the moment: According to the latest Gallup poll, if there was a government shutdown, 39% of the public would blame the GOP, 36% would blame Obama and 17% would blame both sides. Those are not bad numbers and when Obama is shouting from the rooftops that he won’t compromise under any circumstances, there’s no reason the polls have to dramatically tilt against the Republican Party if Democrats insist on shutting the government down. If people assume your side is holding up a deal when the other side is telling everyone that it won’t compromise, then maybe it’s time to start questioning whether your leaders are effective enough at messaging to continue to lead.
2) The GOP has to prove it’s willing to stand up and fight: Jonah Goldberg once said, “(J)ust to clarify: If you go into every situation saying there’s absolutely nothing worth fighting over, you will inevitably end up on a cot sleeping next to a guy named Tiny, bringing him breakfast in his cell every morning, and spending your afternoons ironing his boxers. Or, in the case of the French, you might spend your afternoon rounding up Jews to send to Germany, but you get the point.”
The problem with the D.C. Republicans is that they’ve become that guy sleeping on the cot. They’re ultimately not willing to go to the mat over anything and so the Democrats never see a need to compromise because they assume they’ll win every even fight in a walk. As a general rule, they’re right about that and if it wasn’t for the conservative base applying pressure to the GOP, we’d NEVER win an even fight with the Democrats. That needs to change.
3) We elevate the issue: If we could pick one issue that should decide the 2014 and 2016 elections, Obamacare would be it. The roll-out has been a disaster. People are losing their jobs, being cut back to part time, and losing their health insurance. Premiums are set to skyrocket across the nation. Obamacare is killing the middle class in this country and we should want every last American to know that the GOP is fighting like hell to stop this law while the Democrats are responsible for every last problem Americans have with their health care from now on. If this fight helps cement that message in and becomes a crucial defining difference between the two parties, that’s a good thing for the Republican Party.
4) We make it known we’re going to kill the bill by any legal means necessary: Since the GOP has voted against Obamacare many times and most GOP governors have declined to sign up for the exchanges, this is the next logical step in attempting to kill the bill. If the GOP manages to take back the Senate and the perception is that the Democrats lost because of Obamacare, it could dramatically curtail support for the law on the Left. Beyond that, we should expect any GOP nominee in 2016 to pledge to unilaterally dismantle Obamacare using the precedent set by Barack Obama. If we have an opportunity to do something, but fail to act, the politicians like John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham will declare the fight over and encourage everyone to just learn to live with Obamacare.
5) Think of the proposals we can send the Democrats: Too many people think of this as an all or nothing exercise. Either we defund Obamacare or we’ve failed. But, what if the House Republicans compromise by agreeing to fund the government, while implementing the whole law “as is” with no delays? What if they agree to fund the government, but demand that the IRS, Congress, and their aides are covered by Obamacare? What if they vote to fund the government, but with a two year Obamacare delay? Let’s turn this into THE ISSUE OF 2014 and then let the whole country see that Democrats would rather shut the government down than give up their special carve-outs for the IRS, themselves, and their cronies. If the GOP leadership can’t wring concessions worth having out of the Democrats under those circumstances, then the problem isn’t the fight; it’s the people we have in charge of the Republican Party.