The GOP: Is the fight to defund Obamacare doomed?

It was a good week for Sen. Ted Cruz, but a disaster for a bitterly divided Republican Party.

It was a good week for Sen. Ted Cruz, said Jonathan Tobin in, but a disaster for a bitterly divided Republican Party. With a grandstanding, 21-hour “talkathon” on the Senate floor, Cruz cynically demanded that fellow Republicans join him in an all-out effort to stop Obamacare, denouncing more pragmatic GOP colleagues as the “surrender caucus.” With a Monday deadline looming, Cruz and other Tea Party–backed conservatives are demanding that the Republican-controlled House refuse to pass a budget that would fund the government unless Democrats strip out all monies for the rollout of Obamacare in 2014. But since “the White House and the Senate are both controlled by Democrats,” there’s zero chance the GOP will win. So Cruz’s ego-driven, self-righteous last stand had only one real goal: to make him a hero to the base and boost his 2016 presidential ambitions. For Republicans, a government shutdown—or a refusal to raise the debt limit two weeks later—would be a “charge into fixed bayonets,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. We’ve opposed Obamacare from the start, but the GOP’s “only real way to repeal the law is to win elections”—and you don’t win elections by throwing foolish tantrums that alienate voters.

Taking a principled stand is not a tantrum, said Andrew McCarthy in Every Republican in Congress agrees that Obamacare will be a disaster, and the law is also very unpopular with the American public. This is a “put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is moment” for the GOP. If the only way to demonstrate its opposition is to risk a government shutdown, so be it. Even if we don’t win this battle, voters will remember which party heroically tried to stop Obamacare when this boondoggle’s consequences kick in. In 2014 and 2016, Democrats will be “forced to defend Obamacare in the light of day.”

If Republicans are so sure Obamacare will be a disaster, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post,then why not just let the rollout proceed? What the “radical far right” really fears is that Americans will discover that “the bogeyman’’ conservatives have conjured up is based on lies and distortions, and that extending affordable health coverage to millions of people will prove to be both successful and popular. Once Americans realize that health reform improves on the current broken system, conservatives worry, we’ll take “a giant leap toward godless socialism.” Cruz’s motives are even more cynical than that, said Patricia Murphy in He and his fellow right-wing firebrands know they’ll fail to stop Obamacare. But they’ve purposely whipped the party’s Obama-loathing base into a frenzy so they can ask them for fundraising checks. Those millions are pouring in, and Cruz will use them to advance his ambitions.

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We conservatives need a more realistic—and more optimistic—strategy, said Avik Roy in The argument for shutting down the government over Obamacare assumes, as Cruz has said, that once Americans become “addicted to the sugar” of subsidized health care, it would mark “a permanent and irreversible defeat for the cause of limited government.” That’s just not true. The passage of Medicare didn’t “spell the doom of conservatism,” nor did the New Deal, or any of the last century’s expansions of federal bureaucracy. The fight for free-market solutions and smaller government will go on. “To believe that the extinction of conservatism is upon us unless Obamacare is repealed in the next hundred days is to be a true member of the ‘surrender caucus.’”

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