The voters are winding up to deliver a punch in November 2014. If you think Wall Street is rigged, the government is spying on you and that if you get out of line the IRS will come after you, you’re not considered a nut anymore.
Given the sad reality that some paranoia is not unreasonable, it is easy to understand why some GOP members of Congress think the warnings about the consequences of a government shutdown are overblown or at least part of an ongoing conspiracy to sustain the status quo.
The senior members who lived through the last shutdown, or the members who are able to see two or three moves down the board, see the folly of a government shutdown. They know how it will inevitably end. Yet many GOP leaders lack credibility with a portion of the rank-and-file and don’t seem to understand the desire to stand on principle. It is rational to believe that since Republicans are against Obamacare, Republicans should do everything in their power — including opposing a budget that includes Obamacare funding and playing chicken with the debt ceiling — to stop the program. I said it was rational; I didn’t say it would be wise to pursue this path.
I feel for Republican members who have been put in this position. But these bad choices are of our own making. We’ve talked about how bad Obamacare is for years and GOP members have voted for repeal several times, but we still don’t have an alternative. How can it be that we don’t have an affirmative, consensus market-based alternative to the program? Our inability to be constructive opposition is not the president’s fault.
The only options Republicans have today are to 1) capitulate to President Obama or 2) force an unflattering, politically harmful government shutdown and then capitulate to Obama. Certainly no Republican member of Congress wants to go home for the August recess and say that he or she has already decided to punt, to give Obama his funding for Obamacare and to vote “yes” for a budget they know is bloated, poorly organized and irresponsibly managed. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and the ad hoc caucus he leads have the easier position. They can say “no” to Washington, receive the applause from the conservative faithful and leave it to others to figure out how to govern. It’s going to be a long, hot August for the GOP, but let’s hope for a burst of creativity that delivers us from the hole we have dug for ourselves.