September 27, 2013

If you spend 30 seconds thinking about it, you know the right-wing defund strategy cannot succeed and never had the potential to succeed. But more curious than the 21 House Republicans who drafted a ridiculous letter urging Senate Republicans to filibuster the continuing resolution (CR) they voted for to defund Obamacare, are the conservative commentators and elected officials who know better but sheepishly go along.

Jeff Sessions
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee says he will vote against cloture. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

At this point a “no” vote is a vote to shut down the government permanently (or until the GOP caves) because there is zero evidence that either the Dems or the president would agree to defund Obamacare. They never would have agreed to do so and they still won’t.

Nevertheless, from some well-respected conservative columnists we’ve heard a slew of silly compliments, especially coming from conservatives, for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) He riled up the base! Liberals hate him! He spoke so long and so eloquently! None of these are conservative sentiments, for conservatism warns against whipping up the masses with appeals to anger; conservatism does not praise eloquent untruths. This is Jacobism, not the tradition of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk and Ronald Reagan. Did conservatism become the tradition of useless gestures and self-destructive urges?

These voices at some pretty respected conservative outlets (I’m not talking about talk radio or the micro-right wing blogs whom you would expect to mindlessly parrot the Cruz line) don’t do themselves or the cause of conservatism any favors.

Equally unsettling are the GOP senators who know Cruz is a fraud, understand it is wrong to vilify fellow Republicans when the target should be Dems, grasp that a successful “no” vote would close down the government for no good reason, and nevertheless won’t vote for cloture. They are worse, when you come to think of it, than the true believers. (Don’t worry — I’ll name names after the vote.)

A smart Hill Republican explains the mindset: “Because of the way this has played, I’m sure 15-20 senators will vote against cloture. It’s not because they support Cruz or the strategy, but it’s a no-brainer at this point. If they don’t, they’ll get attacked for no reason. If they do [vote no], no one will care.” But aren’t they, you know, concerned about doing something productive or closing down a noxious force in their body? I’m naïve, I am told: “On a procedural vote, it’s a no-brainer [to vote against cloture]. No one cares except the Senate Conservatives Fund and a microcosm of the base. So, you vote against it, move on.”

This is the way of Washington. It’s not the Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) faction that is “principled” or “brave,” but the Senate grown-ups who are willing to take the spears from Heritage Action and who won’t be praised by the conservative dead wood weekly magazines and upstart outlets grasping for stature. These Senate “yes” voters are willing to call foul, not play to the deluded crowd and do – it is corny but true – the right thing. On some level it is comforting to know that the hardline radicals have only about 20 members in the House; perhaps the House leadership can cater less to this sliver of the conference. And it is reassuring that not a single GOP governor has come out to support this nonsense; quite a few have denounced it.

If the conservative journalists half-heartedly clucking for Cruz were themselves braver, they would be lauding the “yes” votes, not slapping Cruz on the back; but sometimes doing the right thing is just too damn hard.

UPDATE: Arguments like this rationalizing the Cruz gambit would have us assume no one was talking about Obamacare before Cruz’s stunt, while ignoring that the anger Cruz stirred was against Republicans, leaving Democrats unscathed.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.