For a while, I too took this warning seriously. When as wise a head as Charles Krauthammer advises conservatives against shooting themselves in the foot, it makes sense to listen. Likewise, when as experienced a politician as Karl Rove tells us it makes sense first to win the 2014 election and then to tackle Obamacare, prudent people should take notice.
Then I got to thinking. The tea party partisans are urging Republicans to be more aggressive. They are essentially saying, if the Democrats want a fight, “Bring it on!” I, on the other hand, would frame the appropriate strategy as a need to be less defensive.
Too often when liberals accuse conservatives of dire deeds the response has been to deny the accusation. Ergo, in this case, when Republicans are charged with wanting to shut down the government, they simply insist this is not true.
But why not hurl counter-charges? What about accusing Democrats of analogous misdeeds? Thus, when liberals claim conservatives want to shut the government just so they can end Obamacare, why not respond that liberals want to risk shutting the government just to save Obamacare?
And what about the business of the Republicans holding the government “hostage”? Why not accuse the Democrats of doing that. After all, they are saying they would rather see everything come to a halt rather than postpone Obamacare for even a year.
The situation is comparable to this. A crook is holding a gun to the head of a woman and he tells her husband that it will be his fault if she is shot. In essence the bad guy asserts, “If you don’t do as I say, I will pull the trigger and it will be on your head.”
This is like Obama and the Senate Democrats saying, if you attach a defunding rider to the continuing resolution, when we veto it, it will be your responsibility. You know you can’t win, so put down your threat and do things our way.
When Republicans subsequently demur, they are then accused of being stubborn. But are there any more stubborn than Democrats when it comes to preserving this hated legislation? Similarly, Republicans are branded as obstructionists, but aren’t Democrats obstructing attempts to reverse Obamacare?
If the fear is that efforts to end Obamacare will not play well during the next election cycle, Republicans are not thinking ahead. Don’t they realize they can always contend that they tried to protect the American people, but the Obama administration stymied their efforts for political purposes?
And as for the notion that Republicans will be blamed for shutting the government down just as they were during the Clinton administration, it must be realized that circumstances have changed.
Back then, Newt Gingrich boasted about how a shutdown would bring Clinton to his knees. He clearly instigated the confrontation. Now anyone paying attention knows the Democrats are salivating over the opportunity to blame their foes. In this sense, they are more in favor of a shutdown than the Republicans.
The fly in the ointment, of course, is the media. Mainstream reporters and editors fully understand the game being played, but despite their current disenchantment with the president, can be counted upon to defend him. Whatever happens, they will blame his detractors.
So what to do? My answer: Be aggressive, but don’t defund the government. Put up a good fight, but in the end vote for the stripped-down continuing resolution likely to come from the Senate. A temporary reversal is not fatal as long as it is clear the war is not over and Republicans mean what they say when they insist Obamacare must go.
First and foremost, do what is right!
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.