The federal government shut down yesterday after House Republicans refused to pass any budget that didn't defund Obamacare. The president's signature domestic initiative passed by the skin of its teeth in 2010 and survived both a Supreme Court challenge and a national election in 2012. Are you surprised the GOP is staking so much on a fight it has already lost three times?
Not at all. Let’s be clear what this is about: the refusal of a defeated political party to accept the legitimacy of the democratic process when it didn’t get its way. The focus on Obamacare as a means to delegitimize a twice-elected president is just the latest pretext after previous pretexts failed, from the president’s supposedly fake birth certificate to the “Fast and Furious” scandal to Benghazi and all the other would-be impeachable offenses investigated by the House’s Inspector Clouseau, Representative Darrell Issa of California. Think of the Obamacare-driven shutdown as parallel to the Monica Lewinsky–driven impeachment of Bill Clinton: a handy — though ultimately backfiring — vehicle for an attempted right-wing coup against a Democratic president. If the GOP’s real aim was to get government out of Americans’ medical care, it would be resuming its campaign to “reform” (e.g., gradually defund) Medicare, for starters. But you don’t hear anything about that anymore now that the party realizes that its base loves Medicare — so much so that tea-partiers carried signs saying “Keep Government Out of My Medicare!” in ignorance of the fact that it is a program of the government they loathe. So Obamacare is the chosen weapon instead. Unfortunately for the Republicans, it is going to detonate in their own caucus.
So, what will change the equation? Paul Ryan got it half-right when he said yesterday that the battle on tap two weeks from now, over the debt limit, will be “the forcing mechanism to bring the two parties together.” But the parties won’t come together then — the Republicans will have to retreat. The moment the radicals seriously threaten to push America into default and toss our economy and the world’s into an uncharted cataclysm, Wall Street, which still writes far more checks for the GOP than the outside right-wing groups supporting the shutdown, will pull the plug on the revolution.