On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin made a funny about the GOP’s (relatively speaking) decent showing among voters right now: “Republicans have tried something new: they made a budget deal and they’re not shutting [down] the government.” After saying this, Holtz-Eakin initially kept a straight face. His bottom lip quivered. Laughter ensued.
Republicans made a budget deal and didn’t shut down the government.
The public craves, now as ever, two things: stability and widely shared prosperity. Promising the latter is fine; actually providing it is best. Denying the former is fatal.
Alas, there’s reason to believe the GOP’s recognition of the primacy of stability is merely temporary.
The party may simply be lying in wait until the next kulturkampf over Obamacare.
Dave Weigel reports at Slate:
One of the bullet points that convinced most House Republicans to back [the budget] bill was “hey, let’s shut up about everything except Obamacare.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
Later in 2014, with Republicans largely focused on winning Senate races, what will they want out of Congress? A chance to codify their problems with Obamacare, and exploit whatever delays to the law the president is making in his executive decisions. The overwhelming acceptance of this deal suggests that Republicans aren’t really obsessed with passing entitlement reform, but they are obsessed with dismantling Obamacare, and they think their biggest mistake in 2013 was using the wrong leverage (the CR) to achieve that.
If true, Republicans are grossly miscalculating.
The truth is, polling on Obamacare is not starkly different than it was two years ago. And recall that, in October, during the shutdown, the needle moved toward approval of Obamacare not because it was working well (obviously), but because Republicans shut down the government over it.
The numbers on Obamacare fell to earth again largely because of the “If you like your plan, you can keep it” imbroglio. In other words, Obamacare suffers most when people feel like it’s going to disrupt their lives. Hence the seeming paradox that’s not really a paradox: the law itself is unpopular, and so is the idea of repealing it.
Disruption is the common denominator.
A wise party would learn from this. A wise party would not be salivating over the next opportunity to destabilize the government, spook markets, and upset stability-craving voters. A wise party would seek to either constructively improve or offer a serious alternative to the law, or else take the public’s hint and simply keep its head down and do its job.
But wisdom is in short supply.
And we’re probably still looking at a clown show.