10/27/2013 08:21 pm ET

BOTH SIDES NOW : Will Shutdown in 2014 Shutdown GOP? Erickson Says 'No Mas'

By Mark Green

Erick Erickson and Ron Reagan debate why the GOP in January would reprise tactics that tanked its popularity. And will the Obamacare website "glitches" be only a mild ankle sprain or game-ending injury?


This week's panelists are experts at GOP schisms -- Erickson speculating now whether his party could split in two and Reagan recalling how his father led movement conservatives against President Ford in 1976. So are Tea Party electeds "lemmings with suicide vests" or playing a shrewd longer game? And why do poorer Red States so hate a federal government redistributing them money from richer Blue States?

On Shutting Down the GOP. Was the Shutdown of government and near-shutdown of economy worth it? Erick Erickson, among its leading instigators, says yes because it exposed the divisions within the GOP and drew the line on such a fundamental issue as Obamacare. He concedes that the polling didn't look so hot now but "the political cycle moves very fast and this problem is only short term." OK, was this worth a $24 billion hit to the economy and will you repay that tab? He laughs and demurs.

Ron doesn't think it's so funny. "It was a strategy destined to fail and exposed Republicans as not fiscal conservatives but political ideologues -- and made them as popular as Hepatitus B... I agree with Erick that it exposed divisions within the GOP -- great, let them split into two parties that'd stand on their own, win nothing, so the Democrats would control everything."

Erick acknowledges that it's very unlikely the GOP would either reprise its brinksmanship around the next debt ceiling fight in January or split up. "In my opinion the Republican Party is dead and people are fighting over its corpse. What's likely is that Southern and libertarian Western states will fight over the heart and soul of the party from within it."

Host: He's surely right to conclude there will be no split since the last successful 3rd party was created in the 1850s and, as Frank Rich persuasively argues again in "New York" magazine this week, the GOP has always been comprised of a minority of secessionists, states rightsers, Randians, more recently birthers and will continue to do so, what their moniker and sway.

Ron thinks the fissures now are greater than when his father led movement conservatives in 1976 against the Wall Street Republican establishment of President Gerald Ford. "I mean you have Louis Gohmert saying that John McCain is siding with al Qaeda. My father never accused Gerald Ford of siding with the Soviets," he says, impishly.

Quote of the week: former GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette warned that, if Tea Party keeps up its extreme tactics, in the 2014 elections "we'll beat the snot out of them."

On Obamacare's stumble out of the gate. What went wrong with the bungled roll-out of the Obamacare web site? There's agreement that a lack of coordination and an inadequate Beta testing period (duh) created problems that tarnished Obama's prized accomplishment. Erick thinks that the "glitches" probably "play into larger issues of whether government is capable of doing things well enough to get people behind it." [WWII, Social Security, Apollo Program, Civil Rights laws, bin Laden...?]

Ron thinks that if such web sites work well in states like Massachusetts and California, they will eventually everywhere. And he cites his own family's situation as evidence that the program will succeed -- he and his wife had coverage problems due to her pre-existing condition but now have found a good plan at one-third the cost.

But he notes that that the program can't work miracles, citing the NYT article on how areas of low population won't see low rates because of little health insurer competition. Problem: since Obama now "owns" Obamacare and appears to own all of health care to much of the public, whenever anything goes wrong with health care delivery, he'll get the blame rather than insurance companies. Ron sighs and agrees. "Of course that's because this is a second best approach since Republicans wouldn't allow a more efficient and less expensive single payer system."

"Fix it, don't nix it" is the new rallying cry of defensive Democrats against Republicans eager to get back on the attack. "Glee" here is not he name of a popular TV show but the widespread feeling of Republican commentators and officials everywhere. But we've seen this movie before. Will the GOP overreach in hearings and blogs yelling Obamacare-Gate? Do fish swim and birds fly? Kathleen Sebilius, Lois Lerner, Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder must resign!

We'll know soon enough whether the web site problem is technical or conceptual. But there's reason to think that the benefits of Obamacare -- preventive care, children on parents plans, lower premiums for most, no preexisting conditions barriers -- will keep enhancing its popularity. And there's reason to doubt that a party which opposed the law and tried to repeal or defund it now will be credible when it adopts similar Chicken Little language about its implementation. (See Sen. Barrasso this past Sunday on ABC's "This Week" and Chairman Issa this coming week at his hearings.)

On Red-Blue America? Surely President Obama has been proven wrong when he said in his famous 2004 Democratic Convention speech that there were no Red States or Blue States but "only the United States of America." But why exactly do officials in low-income Red States despise a federal government subsidizing their health and other services with tax revenues from richer Blue States? Aren't they cutting off their nose to spite their face? And what do our two panelists think of Ohio Gov. Kasich opting in to extended Medicare benefits because he fears having to answer to a St. Peter who here cares more about reducing poverty than government?

Ron here jumps on the Tea Party -- "basically the Religious Right in tri-cornered hats" -- for opposing programs that help poor, sick people while citing Jesus's teaching. Erick, however, jokes that he doesn't recall Jesus ever endorsing national health plans [nor did his web site work for over 2000 years!].He adds that while some wealthier blue cities like NYC and San Francisco do export monies, there are pockets of greater or lesser wealth within Red States so the generalization didn't hold. Also, folks in Red States often feel that certain things should just not be done by government but by responsible individuals. Philosophy trumps pocketbook.

Quick Takes. World Series. Christie & Marriage. Drones.

There's a 3 for 3 consensus. While this Red Sox-Red Birds world series is between two great teams, baseball is slipping as the "National Past-time," says Ron, because "it stinks on TV...with lots of standing around and talk of statistics" (this from the son of a man who began his career announcing Chicago Cubs games on radio with such energy that it gained him big notoriety). Host: Of course Ron spoke before the amazing end to the 3rd game. Rewrite!

While Gov. Christie opposes gay marriage, was it shrewd of him to accept the inevitable and this week not appeal a New Jersey decision legalizing it? Erick notes that, while he's not a big fan of Christie, the governor probably had no real choice. Ron cynically thinks that Christie will have it both ways in 2016 "indulging in the bigotry of being against marriage equality for gays but then allowing it to happen."

Contrary to the claims of the Administration, a report by Human Rights Watch documented the considerable number of civilians who die in drone attacks. Are they, as Malala told the president, creating more terrorists than they're killing? Beyond Reft and right, Erickson and Reagan agree. "I can't tell you exactly the red line here but I think we've crossed it," says Erick.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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