It Doesn’t Matter If the Obamacare Defunding Gambit Fails

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My article from the Sept. 27, 2013, issue of American Thinker:

Matthew Vadum with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Awesome)
It Doesn’t Matter If the Obamacare Defunding Gambit Fails
By Matthew Vadum

The current campaign to deprive President Obama’s health care leviathan of the life-sustaining tax dollars it needs for full bureaucratic metastasis is what left-wingers call a consciousness-raising exercise. 

It matters next to nothing if current Republican efforts succeed in immediately defunding Obamacare.  That’s because this is just the opening round of what promises to be a protracted struggle to restore sanity to the American health care system.  A temporary defeat at one juncture on the road to repeal isn’t really a defeat at all, provided that it serves a larger purpose.  Obamacare, after all, wasn’t enacted in a day and it won’t be repealed in a day.

Both the Ted Cruz talkathon and the brinksmanship over the stop-gap government funding measure (called a “continuing resolution”) epitomize purposeful political theater. 

Ignore the blatherskite spewing from GOP establishment talking heads like Karl Rove:  there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing political things strictly for public consumption even when there is a less-than-direct or less-than-obvious relationship between the things done and the desired results.  It’s not somehow dishonest or dishonorable to do this, contrary to the protestations of the pompous pundits who suck up air in the Washington echo chamber.

In this age of instant everything, we tend to forget that politics isn’t always about concrete, instantaneous results.  It’s about symbolism.  It’s about focusing the attention of people in order to educate them.  It’s about framing the issues properly, telling stories, and planting memes in public spaces, allowing them to spread like dandelion seeds on a passing breeze.  That’s how Americans were brainwashed into believing that Republicans are the “party of the rich” and gazillionaire George Soros’s Democrats are the caring party of compassion.

But intellect by itself doesn’t always serve champions of limited government well.  Sometimes showmanship and connecting with people on an emotional level is required to make good things happen.  All good salespeople understand this.  

Andrew Breitbart understood this.  James O’Keefe III and Hannah Giles understand this.  Republicans used to understand this.

Although the master of political theater, Rules for Radicals author Saul Alinsky, was an irredeemably anti-American Marxist with a taste for political violence, he wasn’t wrong about everything.  He believed in using public spectacles to generate the friction that is a precondition of change.  “Action comes from keeping the heat on,” Alinsky wrote in his opus.  “No politician can sit on a hot issue if you make it hot enough.”

Which brings us to the dramaturgist of the hour, Ted Cruz.  As enemies from the media and both political parties circled over him, the Leonidas-like Cruz showed his gun-shy Republican colleagues how it’s done.  In a lonely de facto filibuster, the junior senator from Texas spoke in the United States Senate for more than 21 hours in a long-shot bid to derail Obamacare.

It was a wonderful civic moment.  The iron-bladdered lawmaker provided the nation with what amounted to a highly informative infomercial on C-SPAN that detailed how the incipient entitlement program is needlessly boosting health care insurance premiums, expanding the ranks of the uninsured, and generating unemployment, headaches for small businesses, and misery in general across America.  The Cruz talkathon was public service at its finest.

In congressional Republicans’ long post-War World Two exile from majority status, they rarely rose up to challenge the powers that be, but when they did it was a thing of beauty.

There was the bitterly contested 1984 election in Indiana’s eighth congressional district in which House Democrats stole the election in broad daylight.  After Indiana certified his Republican challenger, Rick McIntyre, as the winner, months and many recounts later the Democrat-controlled House seated Frank McCloskey.

Famed psephologist Charlie Cook bemoans the seating of McCloskey as the starting point of a downward spiral in civility in national politics.  “At that point Republicans had been in the minority for 30 years and they were pretty docile … living off the crumbs that the Democratic majority threw them.”

The seating of McCloskey in 1985 “so enraged House Republicans and even some of the most mild-mannered, most moderate members,” that they began “supporting Newt Gingrich and his rise to take over the Republican apparatus.”

At the time the House Minority Leader was Bob Michel, a milquetoast cat-herder appreciated by Democrats and the media because he was so ineffectual.  But the shabby treatment afforded McIntyre galvanized Republicans.  They walked out in unison to protest the seating of McCloskey.  This solidarity of brothers-in-arms was political theater.  It was also the beginning of a renewed, ultimately successful GOP effort to recapture the House.

Naturally, Cook sees the walkout as a bad thing.  The Indiana-8 fight “became so partisan and so bitter between the two sides … you started seeing a bunch of House members coming over to the Senate and it was almost like a contagion coming over from one body into another body,” said Cook.

“It took a long time before the bitterness that was in the House moved over to the Senate,” he said, but “now it’s in the Senate.”

Given Cook’s mushy liberal leanings –he’s a former Democratic Senate aide– he can be forgiven for calling Republicans’ pre-Indiana-8 spinelessness “civility.”

This so-called civility, which in this case is the same as docility, turns out to be the enemy of limited government.  Yet many Republicans today share Cook’s foolish civility fetish.

Nothing in recent memory has brought out this losing mindset among Republicans more than conversations about how the GOP should fight Obamacare, assuming, of course, that GOPers actually do want to fight Obamacare.

The inordinate fear of shutting down the federal government or of being blamed for the shutdown of the federal government haunts Republican strategists.  Discussions of strategy and tactics between these tormented souls nowadays are like episodes of Seinfeld, filled with invented, silly rules and extended debate about niceties and etiquette.

Some Obamacare opponents on the GOP side say defunding would be impossible even if Obamacare opponents had the votes because Obamacare is supported by so-called mandatory spending.

Contrary to commonly received Washington wisdom, anything funded by the government can be defunded — as long as the Constitution continues to contain an Appropriations Clause that gives Congress the power of the purse.  Some have pointed out that funds have already been appropriated to implement Obamacare.  Those funds can be rescinded.  The offices already created can be plowed under and the ground sown with salt.

They also ignore the fact that Republicans won the shutdown battle with President Clinton in 1995.  Contrary to media propaganda, the Republicans in that glorious conflict got largely what they wanted and did fine in the following congressional election, even gaining Senate seats.  (Republicans didn’t win the presidency in 1996, of course, but that’s because they nominated the king of the RINOs, Bob Dole, as their candidate.)

But facts count for little because there is so much irrational fear out there right now in GOP circles.  Republicans are a party scared of its own shadow.  They make up rationalizations to justify passivity.  That’s no way to win.

Republicans who counsel going along to get along say the GOP needs to win congressional majorities in 2014 and 2016 in order to kill Obamacare properly.

But they have no answer to this question:   how exactly are Republicans going to get these majorities in 2014 and 2016 to repeal Obamacare if they don’t honor the solemn vow they made to take on Obamacare?  Failing to at least try to sabotage the program guarantees a segment of conservative voters will stay home on Election Day.

Right now the public is receptive to anti-Obamacare overtures.  A new Rasmussen poll says a bare majority of Americans is now okay with at least a “partial” government shutdown.

An ABC/Washington Post poll shows 9 of 10 Americans don’t believe the federal government, their state governments, and the health insurance industry are fully prepared to implement Obamacare. Headline after headline brings news of government bureaucracy’s inability to get health insurance exchanges up and running.

In 16 ABC/Post polls since August 2009, Obamacare has never received majority support and 6 in 10 Americans now believe the federal government has too much power, according to Gallup polls.  A mere 7 percent of Americans believe the government doesn’t have enough power.

So the question arises, if not now, when?

Something, anything, has to be done to throw a wrench into the remorseless machinery of Obamacare, this hideous usurpation of civil society that is being implemented in stages, death of a thousand cuts-style.

It’s not like Obamacare was enacted legitimately.  Parliamentary rules were twisted beyond recognition to get this monstrosity through the Senate without meeting the normal numerical threshold for passage.  It was passed by one party alone without any affirmative votes from the other party.  This traditionally is not the way entitlements have been enacted.  And, to boot, in the subsequent midterm election there was a wave of anti-Obamacare lawmakers elected.  Democrats used fraud to get Obamacare enacted.

Benefits are being implemented early in the process.  If people get used to the benefits they will support Obamacare.  With each passing day and every new benefit, the people who get the benefits aren’t going to want to give them up and they’ll get awfully angry at anyone who tries to take them away.  This is the animating principle of the welfare state.   If you think it’s hard to curb government spending now, just wait till the future when the program kicks into high gear.

We know with absolute certainty that the program, which is even more centralizing than Britain’s disastrous national health care system, will fail, harming health outcomes, causing huge lineups and backlogs, stifling medical and pharmaceutical innovations, and bankrupting the up-till-now greatest nation on earth.

We are in uncharted territory and the normal rules Republicans like to honor simply don’t apply here. 

This is not just another law.  This is an America-killer.

It’s time to stop worrying about the Republican Party and go to war for America’s sake.

Matthew Vadum is an investigative journalist in Washington, D.C., and author of the ACORN/Obama expose, Subversion Inc.  Follow him on Twitter.