Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Political stunts

As I write, Ted Cruz has been conducting a filibuster on defunding Obamacare. Before that, Rand Paul conducted a filibuster on domestic drones. Both actions are political stunts. That's because, as long as Democrats control the White House and one chamber of Congress, Republicans can't do anything to change the status quo. 

However, when I say "political stunt," I'm not necessarily using that as a pejorative expression. For one thing, Republicans do need to do things to distinguish themselves from Democrats. For another, a political stunt can raise public awareness of an issue.

It's like talking about impeachment. Obama has committed impeachable offenses. As a practical matter, he can't be impeached. Democrats control the Senate. Moreover, Obama would have to be massively unpopular among the electorate for impeachment to be politically viable. 

But even though it would be futile for the House to initiate impeachment proceedings, there's nothing wrong with Republicans publicizing Obama's impeachable offenses. That's something that needs to be drilled into the public awareness.

Republicans confront a dilemma, although it's just a hypothetical dilemma at this juncture. If Republicans had the clout to defund Obamacare, they would be punished for doing so prematurely. Many voters have no intellectual patience for abstract consequences. They can be forewarned, but as long as the consequences are tomorrow rather than today, many voters ignore the warnings. Many voters love the idea of universal healthcare. As long as it remains an idea, they love it. It's only when Obamacare begins to bite that some voters will wake up and realize it wasn't such a swell idea after all. When their coverage is dropped. When their premiums skyrocket. 

Unfortunately, the electorate doesn't reward politicians for preventing disasters. Something that didn't happen is a nonevent. That doesn't register with many voters. Many voters are crisis-driven. They procrastinate until it's too late to forestall the damage. 

Ironically, there's a sense in which Republicans must wait for Obamacare to be implemented, for the economic consequences to take hold, before enough voters will appreciate, or even clamor for, repeal. In the meantime, Republicans need to constantly connect the dots for oblivious voters. 

Recently, there was  a dustup between Chris Christie and Rand Paul. Christie is prepositioning himself for a presidential bid. If he ran, he'd be the establishment candidate. 

With his northeastern worldview, he's totally out of touch with the party base. To some extent, Rand Paul has the wind to his back, although he has competition. Indeed, Cruz is a case in point. Rubio used to be a rising star, but his involvement in "comprehensive immigration reform" debacle turned him into a falling star. 

Right now the GOP is sorting itself out. NRO is something of a bellwether. On the one hand you have the old-guard hawks who automatically support the NSA, Syrian intervention, and a muscular Executive branch. Many pundits find it hard to reinvent themselves in the face of novel challenges. They formed their worldview under different circumstances, and their worldview remains the same even when the ground shifts from under them. But Obama is exposing or creating fissures within NRO–and elsewhere in conservative punditry. 

1 comment:

  1. "Unfortunately, the electorate doesn't reward politicians for preventing disasters. Something that didn't happen is a nonevent. That doesn't register with many voters. Many voters are crisis-driven. They procrastinate until it's too late to forestall the damage."

    That's democracy's biggest drawback. Sadly, it's often too late by the time the electorate wakes up and the consequences of sudden repeal are often worse than simply keeping the law in place. Further complicating the issue, the public will probably demand swift repeal with as much recklessness as they let the government program start in the first place, which will lead to a shock in the healthcare market that will affect everyone. This lack of forward vision is a problem in democratic/republican societies.

    That was/is the case in the Fmr. Soviet Union with the rollback of Socialist programs there. Even though the Soviet Union's government programs were notoriously ineffective, the rapid privatization of industry and loosening restrictions on undesirable behaviors (i.e., alcoholism) has led to widespread unemployment and economic decay, a trend which has only recently started to slow. In the absence of preventing the whole experiment in the first place, a more tame drawback of Socialist programs would have been more desirable and reduced the systemic shock that accompanied the fall of the Soviet Union, and also might have avoided the rise of Putin's strongman regime.

    All that being said, I think it is the duty of those that can see these negative consequences to do everything in their power to prevent it, even though I think immediate de-funding is improbable. A more likely solution is an 18-month to 2 year delay. If the House cannot delay the implementation of Obamacare, giving the GOP enough time to gather sufficient political capital to repeal it (perhaps an even greater 2014 victory than 2010), then if and when repeal does come there will almost certainly be a massive displacement in the healthcare market, which could lead to significant human suffering and even loss of life.