So, a band of tea-party Republicans led by Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) – and backed by groups like FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, and Club for Growth – pushed a risky strategy to defund ObamaCare that led to a partial government shutdown. As a logical matter, President Obama and Senate Democrats were equally culpable for the shutdown; they could have avoided it by approving one of the House-passed bills that funded the government while amending the president’s health care law. But that was unlikely. The media and public saw the GOP as more culpable, and the GOP caved. ObamaCare glided away unscathed.
Then came the inevitable recriminations between “defunders” and their detractors. If I may paraphrase and/or embellish: The shutdown was a failure! No it wasn’t! You’re stupid! You voted for ObamaCare! Each camp blames the other for the outcome, and for not being sufficiently devoted to fighting ObamaCare.
To put my cards on the table, as a median-voter-theorem enthusiast who opposed the defund strategy before I supported it, I think it’s too soon to judge whether it was a failure. As of today, it has produced no gains, and ObamaCare opponents saw their poll numbers slip.
On the other hand, ObamaCare justifies drastic measures. Opponents spent political capital taking a principled stand against a law whose roll-out has been a two-week-long train wreck. Even die-hard supporters like Ezra Klein have called it a “disaster.” Former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs has saidheads should roll, and nobody knows whether the administration can get its act together before the health insurance “Exchanges” crater. If it can’t, the defund strategy will make all ObamaCare opponents appear prescient.
Finally, no one has focused on an undeniable success of the shutdown: for one brief, shining moment, my paycheck was larger than my wife’s.
In the end, the defund strategy may prove to be a disaster. Or helpful. As the Zen master said, we’ll see.
What’s clear is that the recriminations are unwisely distracting ObamaCare opponents from adding momentum to strategies that are already defunding the law. Here are four things opponents would be better off doing than fighting among themselves:
1. Stop Medicaid expansion in the states.
As a result, those states have already defunded almost a quarter of ObamaCare’s new entitlement spending. They are also helping to increase dissatisfaction with the law among hospitals and other providers, who now won’t be receiving the subsidies they were promised in return for their support.
If Cruz, Lee, FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, Club for Growth and the rest really want to defund ObamaCare, they should be fighting to block the Medicaid expansion in the 25 states that have already authorized it. Wanna squash Republicans who are soft on ObamaCare? Come visit Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich (R) has all but claimed that God wants Ohio to expand Medicaid, and is literally