Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) needs conservatives to believe that shutting down the government to defund Obamacare will not hurt the Republican Party.
"The sort of cocktail chatter wisdom that, 'Oh, the shutdown was a disaster for Republicans,' is not borne out by the data," the Tea Partying senator said last month.
If Republicans don't buy his premise, then they might figure out that Cruz's campaign to smear his colleagues as "the surrender caucus" and paint anyone who votes to keep the government open as an Obamacare lover is a blatant, reckless fundraising scheme for his 2016 presidential campaign.
In an effort to support Cruz and make it seem as if closing the government down to stop tens of millions of Americans from getting health care is a smart move, the political wing of the Heritage Foundation released a poll that they said proved Republicans should not fear a government shutdown.
"Americans -- including 57 percent of independents in ten critical congressional districts -- favor defunding Obamacare," said Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action. "House Republicans should be much more concerned with the fallout of failing to defund Obamacare than with the imaginary fallout of doing so."
Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald took a closer look at that poll and found that the results actually prove that Obamacare is popular:
What Needham fails to mention, however, is that even this push poll that dramatically oversamples Republicans finds respondents are more likely to say that the Affordable Care Act should be kept than scrapped -- and that a plurality would blame Republicans if the government were to shut down.
Here's the question that Heritage Action was relying on to prove that people really want a shutdown:
IN ORDER TO GET PRESIDENT OBAMA TO AGREE TO AT LEAST HAVE A "TIME OUT" ON IMPLEMENTING THE HEALTH CARE LAW AND ITS FULL EFFECTS, WOULD YOU APPROVE OR DISAPPROVE OF A TEMPORARY SLOWDOWN IN NON-ESSENTIAL FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS, WHICH STILL LEFT ALL ESSENTIAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES RUNNING?
"Who could possibly be against that?" Slate's Dave Weigel asks.
Well, maybe the tens of millions of people who will get health insurance on January 1, 2014. And probably the president of the United States, who risked his presidency to pass those reforms and just won re-election by 5 million votes.
But Weigel's point is still a good one: What Republican would say "no" when asked, "In a perfect world with no consequences, would you like to get rid of a law that taxes the rich and corporations to help working families afford health care?" Unfortunately, not many.
As Seitz-Wald points out, even Heritage Action's skewed poll of Republican districts found that 52 percent of respondents wanted to move forward with the implementation of Obamacare.
However, what the majority of Americans want doesn't concern many Republicans right now.
Ironically, they're much more concerned with the whims of a minority. Of course, this minority happens to be made up nearly entirely of older white people who hate when the government might be helping actual minorities.
You know by now that Republicans fear primary challenges from Tea Partiers the way most people fear being sat next to a Tea Partier on a cross-country flight or at Thanksgiving dinner.
It's this fear of a minority of their party that has been trained by the Kochs and FreedomWorks to drown out other views and keep politicians scared that motivates Republicans to refrain from certain things -- like governing.
Cruz and the far right need Republicans to believe that if they vote to fund Obamacare in order to keep government open, they will face primary challenges that could end their political careers in 2014. At the same time, establishment Republicans are saying that shutting down the government is the one way the GOP could lose the House.
On this rare occasion, the Republican establishment is being honest with its voters.
Dumb primary challenges have cost Republicans the U.S. Senate twice. The government shutdowns of the mid-90s didn't cost Republicans the House, but they did end "what had been called the 'Republican revolution,'" according to conservative Ramesh Ponnuru. The public largely blamed Republicans for their intransigence, and back then there were no American soldiers at war and no Republicans making national news daily for months by saying "Hey, we're the guys who want a government shutdown!" George W. Bush capitalized on the House GOP's unpopularity, beginning his presidential campaign by attacking the House Republicans for trying to balance the budget "on the backs of the poor." After W.'s election, the willingness to cut anything disappeared from the Republican agenda, until the day Barack Obama was sworn in.
Still Ted Cruz wants you to believe that Obamacare can be stopped.
In Iowa last weekend, the senator wowed evangelicals by preaching defunding and promising to get rid of the IRS.
"I am traveling the country working to build a grassroots army and the biggest fight facing Congress right now is the fight to defund Obamacare," he said. And he will not relent.
"Now is the best chance we have to exercise this power in order to defund Obamacare," he told the Daily Caller on Thursday. "It can be done as part of passing the continuing resolution -- a piece of legislation that funds the government and must be renewed by September 30th."
He doesn't go on to explain that his plan also would have to involve the Senate passing a bill that would stop the funding for Obamacare, and that the president would then have to sign that bill. (Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that a shutdown won't stop Obamacare.) Just as he won't admit that getting rid of the IRS would mean that some other government agency would have to collect taxes, or we'd have to give up little things like a military.
And he doesn't have to.
The truth of the situation -- that the GOP lost its last chance to stop Obamacare in 2012 -- is too painful for the Republican base to accept.
That's why they donate money every time the House passes a meaningless Obamacare repeal. That's why the House is still banning ACORN for the 13th time in 2013, even though it shut down in 2010.
And that's why they love Ted Cruz.
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