By Robert L. Capehert
Over at The American Conservative website, W. James Antle III locked and loaded on Republicans. His point: we might as well accept Democratic Party victory on matters small and large because previous Republicans (from Congress to former Pres. George W. Bush) screwed things up so badly.
Initially, the American people’s verdict on the government shutdown appeared to be “a pox on both their houses.” Republicans received plurality blame, but Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and both major parties took something of a hit in the early polls.
But as the shutdown has continued, public opinion is beginning to look as one-sided as it did in 1995-96, if it isn’t worse. The Republican Party’s favorability rating is at a record low, falling 10 points since September to just 28 percent. That’s the lowest for either major party since Gallup started asking the question in 1992.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found even worse results for the GOP. Most telling, approval of ObamaCare—though still low—has risen since October 1 despite a rocky roll-out. This does not bode well for efforts to use the shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare.
Polling is ephemeral and the 2014 elections are the political equivalent of a lifetime away. But none of the falsifiable predictions made by the proponents of this tactic have come true. They said that the Democrats would make major concessions to avoid a shutdown. But the Obama administration is trying to implement the Obamacare exchanges and the government is still shut down.
It was argued that the country would rise up and demand the defunding of Obamacare in response to this confrontation. There is no evidence of such a popular revolt, and some reason to think the shutdown is actually hurting opposition to Obamacare. It was said that President Obama and the Democrats would take the blame for shutting down the government over an unpopular law. Nearly every major poll shows the blame running in the other direction.
The problem the defunders were always going to run into was this: Obama himself would have to agree to defund Obamacare. Failing that, the defunders would need to win over enough other Democrats to form veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress.
Needless to say, neither outcome was ever very likely. What’s more, the end game depended on producing an impasse so protracted and painful that the Democrats would be forced to reconsider. But that would require creating conditions just as likely to turn public opinion against Republicans.
Yet the leading proponents of the government shutdown are more popular with key portions of the conservative activist base than Republicans who are skeptical of this approach. These conservatives don’t care what the polls say, and even after the 2012 election, aren’t sure that the numbers haven’t been skewed by the liberal media.
What these conservatives want is to see their elected officials fight. They are tired of hearing Republicans make excuses as to why government spending cannot be cut. They don’t believe Republicans who say they will work to undercut or fix Obamacare later any more than they believe the Democrats will secure the border after passing an immigration amnesty.
In a very real sense, the Texas Republican who is most responsible for the current stalemate may not be Ted Cruz, but George W. Bush. In 2005, Republicans held the White House. They held both houses of Congress. Republican appointees entered the Supreme Court. The GOP enjoyed a 55-45 Senate majority.
Aside from the confirmation of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, conservatives have very little to show for this period of unified Republican control of the federal government. And after the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare with Roberts’s vote, that confirmation has begun to look like a mixed blessing at best.
Even before Bush, the Republican Congress was more interested in pork barrel, earmarks, and K Street favors than cutting government spending. After Bush, discretionary spending grew faster than it did under Bill Clinton. The biggest new entitlement program since LBJ’s Great Society was added to the federal budget. Another Cabinet-level department was created.
Ironically, much of this is convincing. Certainly too, much of it is true. Aside from that nightmare the question remains—so what?
Which is why I find irksome much of what The American Conservative publishes these days. It ends up being a “prudent” (conservative?) capitulation to Pres. Barack Obama’s statist agenda on (Russell) Kirk-ian grounds because TAC has fistfuls of animus against the Republican establishment and the mainstream conservative movement.
I, too, have large problems with the mainstream conservative movement. Add in the Republican establishment on top of that. Recent headlines on Libertarian Monks is ample proof.
But I have larger problems with ObamaCare, and larger problems still, with the raptor-armed president’s fiscal policies—policies which are anything but prudent.
Even still, I hear a hell of a lot of “prudent” preaching going on over at TAC in the face of one of the most imprudent fiscal and governing policies ever elected into high office. Conversely, the Founding Fathers established co-equal, separate branches of government to ensure such ideological battles would be fought to limit and degrade the most destructive collective capacity-driven legislation unleashed upon free citizens.
It does seem strange that poll numbers mean so much to TAC—and Mr Antle in particular.
It was not long ago when there was no support for nationalised healthcare. Or any of the other idiotic policies the left continues urge onto the population.
These policies are often enacted into law because statists do not share the “we’re losers, our positions suck” attitude that haunts this kind of pessimistic journalism on the American right.