In most tellings of the government shutdown and the debt default flirtation of 2013, President Obama and the Democrats got nearly everything they asked for and the Republican Party got next to nothing. Or worse than nothing: ObamaCare, despite the botched rollout of its HealthCare.gov online insurance mall, is more entrenched than ever and less unpopular, and the GOP's favorability ratings have hit historic lows in several polls.
That's not how Tea Party Republicans are telling it.
After the Wednesday morning House GOP meeting where House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared that his caucus had "fought the good fight" but lost, says Jonathan Strong at National Review, "most of the top conservatives who pushed the House GOP into an ObamaCare fight weren't very introspective, offering positive words about the fight and hope for victories to come."
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
It was "a remarkable victory to see the House engage in a profile of courage," insisted Tea Party champion Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who fielded questions from reporters even as the Senate bill was announced.
Such behavior is not too surprising, says David Weigel at Slate. "Human beings have been putting their best spin on defeats since the invention of 'winning' and 'losing,'" so of course Tea Party Republicans "are going to look for the Alamo underneath the rubble of this loss." In fact, "some Republicans were declaring a victory of sorts":
Weigel rounded up some quotes from supporters of the GOP shutdown strategy:
If House Republicans are declaring tentative wins, some conservative commentators are declaring all-out victory. It may sound "quite delusional to many people, particularly here in Washington," says Keith Koffler at White House Dossier, but the Tea Party was "both sensible and victorious" in this battle. They are merely reminding people, he insists, that America is already in a financial crisis, and is "unable to pay our bills without the help of communist Chinese bureaucrats."
Jonah Goldberg at National Review is less certain, but open to the possibility that there's at least a silver lining for Tea Partiers. "Perhaps raising awareness about ObamaCare alone was worth it," he says. "Maybe hammering home the message that the GOP is foursquare against ObamaCare — and that ObamaCare is a disaster — is a sufficiently valuable long-term message that it was worth going through all of this."
Even some more neutral sources, like USA Today, are scoring the Tea Party and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — one of the key proponents of the shutdown strategy — as winners. They may have failed to dent ObamaCare, says USA Today's Susan Page, but "there were payoffs for the conservative movement."
"Their base is as riled up as it's ever been, and they're raising record amounts of money," Patrick Griffin, the Clinton White House's chief congressional liaison, tells USA Today.
As for Cruz, the freshman senator has "emerged as the clear standard-bearer for the movement, a boost to his possible bid for the presidential nomination in 2016," says Page. His poll numbers have taken a big hit among the general population, but "Cruz's favorable rating among Tea Party supporters in the Pew poll shot up to 74 percent, from 47 percent in June."
Cruz himself spent Wednesday pointing fingers at his Republican colleagues, blaming their criticisms of his tactics for sinking the GOP's chances to defund ObamaCare. "In defeat, Cruz sounds insane to his detractors — and his claim that the country was rallying to his position is refuted by all reputable metrics," says John Dickerson at Slate. But oddly enough, Cruz's gambit gets some validation from instances of Obama's leadership. Dickerson explains:
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.