It looks like a significant element of the Republican party has convinced itself that brinkmanship that threatens to bring the government to a halt by withholding funding for its operations unless Obama care is repealed is a winning strategy. They are threatening to shut down the government in the fall unless all funding for Obamacare is removed. This policy is so insane that it has alarmed even people like Mitt Romney.
Even Paul Krugman has reached the conclusion that I and many others have, that the Republican party has ceased to be political party in any modern sense of the word and has now become just a vehicle to angrily vent about whatever issues that its constituency happens to care about at that moment..
Krugman says that the obsession with repealing Obamacare is a key symptom of this derangement.
In the short run the point is that Republican leaders are about to reap the whirlwind, because they haven’t had the courage to tell the base that Obamacare is here to stay, that the sequester is in fact intolerable, and that in general they have at least for now lost the war over the shape of American society. As a result, we’re looking at many drama-filled months, with a high probability of government shutdowns and even debt defaults.
Over the longer run the point is that one of America’s two major political parties has basically gone off the deep end; policy content aside, a sane party doesn’t hold dozens of votes declaring its intention to repeal a law that everyone knows will stay on the books regardless. And since that party continues to hold substantial blocking power, we are looking at a country that’s increasingly ungovernable. [My italics-MS]
The trouble is that it’s hard to give this issue anything like the amount of coverage it deserves on substantive grounds without repeating oneself. So I do try to mix it up. But neither you nor I should forget that the madness of the GOP is the central issue of our time.
Krugman’s views are significant because he is an establishment figure. While the crazies and Fox News may dismiss him as shrill, there is no question that many influential people across the political spectrum take him seriously, and I have no doubt that there is serious concern about the future of the Republican party among many of its stalwarts.
I have to admit that I am surprised that the Republican party has chosen Obamacare as the issue over which they are willing to go to the mat. A health care reform law that is far from radical and so friendly to the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries seems hardly the kind of thing that one would expect to arouse this kind of high moral outrage. You would not expect it to produce the kind of visceral and emotional reaction that leads to mass action, such as (say) abortion or homosexuality or same-sex marriage or church-state issues.
So why obsess over Obamacare? The only reason I can think of is that the Republican leadership saw the Affordable Care Act as president Obama’s signature issue in his first term and decided that defeating it would be their path to preventing him being re-elected and installing a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, giving them total control of the government. That policy turned out to be a dismal failure, with the Democrats not only regaining the White House but increasing their numbers in Congress in 2012.
But what the strategy achieved was inflaming the Republican party base and making them think that defeating Obamacare was somehow a deep moral issue and not merely a tactic for trying to win the 2012 elections. The party sowed the wind and is now reaping the whirlwind.
The problem is that redistricting has resulted in many incumbents being in such safe seats, their main concern is now to win their party primaries which attract the more extreme segments of their constituencies. Hence there is little downside to advocating crazy polices as long as they satisfy the extreme base. Unless there is a change in views that is large enough that Republican incumbents can be challenged successfully in primaries by people who don’t think that Obamacare is the greatest moral issue of our time and that repeatedly threatening to shut down the government is not a good idea, we are going to continue to lurch from one manufactured crisis to another.
I continue to marvel at how the politics of the world’s largest economy has become so acutely dysfunctional and melodramatic.