Both parties suffer from a reality gap. The president insists the Obamacare debacle is solvable by a few techies. The shutdown squad insists the defund campaign was a great thing for the party and the only problem was it didn’t go on long enough (or something) because of weak-kneed RINO’s. It is hard to recall a time in which both parties were in the grip of such obvious falsehoods.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) leave the Senate floor before the vote to end the shutdown. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) leave the Senate floor before the vote to end the shutdown. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As the Associated Press reported:

As questions mount over the [Obamacare] website’s failure, insider interviews and a review of technical specifications by The Associated Press found a mind-numbingly complex system put together by harried programmers who pushed out a final product that congressional investigators said was tested by the government and not private developers with more expertise.

Project developers who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity — because they feared they would otherwise be fired — said they raised doubts among themselves whether the website could be ready in time. They complained openly to each other about what they considered tight and unrealistic deadlines. One was nearly brought to tears over the stress of finishing on time, one developer said. Website builders saw red flags for months.

The president seems blissfully unaware of this, or thinks we might be. (The AP piece continued, “But in remarks at a Rose Garden event, Obama offered no explanation for the failure except to note that high traffic to the website caused some of the slowdowns. He said it had been visited nearly 20 million times — fewer monthly visits so far than many commercial websites, such as PayPal, AOL, Wikipedia or Pinterest.”) Tellingly, the administration refuses to let us know how many people actually registered, a remarkable bit of stonewalling even for this president.

In short, Obama and his supporters refuse to recognize reality. Full steam ahead!

The Republican shutdown squad is not any better. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and others who raised money off the shutdown insist it was a big win and the public is with them. As with the president’s Obamacare fairytale, the problem with that narrative is that’s it’s false. The latest Post/ABC News poll is just one of many demonstrating the shutdown was hugely unpopular and the people behind it — not the people who ended it — are the culprits. The Post reports:

The survey highlights just how badly the GOP hard-liners and the leaders who went along with them misjudged the public mood. In the aftermath, eight in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the shutdown. Two in three Republicans or independents who lean Republican share a negative view of the impasse. And even a majority of those who support the tea party movement disapprove. . . .

The party’s image has sunk to an all-time low in Post-ABC surveys, with 32 percent of the public saying they have a favorable opinion and 63 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. Almost four in 10 Americans have a strongly unfavorable view of the GOP.

The tea party fares just as badly. Barely a quarter of the public has a favorable image of the movement, the lowest rating in Post-ABC polling.

In short, Cruz, Heritage Action and the rest refuse to acknowledge reality. Full steam ahead!

It is not inconceivable that leaders on each side could level with their own side.

President Obama could say, “As we roll this out, we are discovering that some things are too big to fail. We have to be honest about what a mess the implementation of our historic legislation has been. The exchanges will improve. We will simplify enrollment. But until we figure out a better way to operate and make sure this is user-friendly, we’re aren’t going to penalize them for our mistakes. In the short run, we’ll work harder with the states to increase Medicaid coverage and give them flexibility to provide healthcare for the poor.” In other words, he doesn’t retreat but he adjusts to address changed circumstances.

Republican hard-liners could tell their troops, ” We gave it the college try but it turned into Pickett’s Charge. It’s no way to win a war. We’re going to pick our fights and our spots and make sure we get legislative majorities in 2014. In the meantime, we’re going to come up with a simple, easy alternative to Obamacare  and push to get full data on the extent of Obamacare’s problems. If it is as bad as we think, the American people will appreciate our fighting on their behalf to protect them from penalties enacted by the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. In fact, what we have we think will work better (just about anything would!) at a fraction of the cost and with much less hassle.” In other words, they don’t retreat from the goal of getting rid of Obamacare but they adjust to address their own errors and misjudgments.

The parties would still be apart, but we’ll at least be in the real world talking about what works and what doesn’t.

The gridlock and dysfunction is not simply because we are polarized ideologically and Americans are self-segregating into red and blue jurisdictions. The problem is made infinitely worse by a refusal by both sides to look up and see what is actually going on. If they did, they’d seem more sane and the public would feel less alienated from the governing class. On the other hand, the two political extremes can go on deluding themselves and misleading the public, turning everyone off government in general and them specifically. Unfortunately, I suspect they will do exactly that.

 

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