Republicans Suffering From Post-2012 Traumatic Shock

By: Mona Charen | Posted: September 28, 2013 3:55 AM
Mona Charen

Mona Charen

The Republican Party has experienced a calamity -- the re-election of Barack Obama -- and some parts of the party are behaving like an animal in a trap, chewing off a foot in an effort to cope with it.

Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, Heritage Action and a handful of talk-radio hosts are lashing out at anyone who questions the "defund" tactic on Obamacare as "the surrender caucus." The only reason Republicans haven't prevailed, they argue, is because Republican politicians -- especially Republican leaders -- are squishes. What's needed are stalwart fighters who do not care about being invited to Georgetown cocktail parties.

This is a delusion. There are two strata here. One consists of the figures like Lee and Cruz, who, one suspects, understand that this is all a pose. 

Obamacare is law because we lost the election, not because we failed some virility test. Another fixed-bayonets charge at the law would do nothing to prevent implementation -- not unless 15 Democratic senators decided to change their positions and President Obama slapped his palm to his forehead exclaiming, "You're right! My signature legislation is a dog's breakfast of complexity, inefficiency and injustice that is already harming job creation and will badly weaken our health care system. Let's strangle it in the cradle."

The second stratum is the Republican base, frustrated by the nation's slide into Europeanization and apparently ready to blame fellow Republicans for the state of play. It's easier to imagine that the nation's decline could be avoided if only Republicans were more courageous than to face the reality that the nation has changed. No country that voted for Barack Obama twice is simply pining for purer conservative standard bearers.

The Cruz caucus argued that Oct. 1 is a hinge moment. No, the hinge moment was Nov. 6 of last year. With only 45 Republican senators and Obama in the White House, even if Republicans threaten to hold their breath until they die, they cannot vote the thing down ... right now.

What Cruz and company can succeed in doing, however, is to sully the reputation of the Republican Party just as Obama's popularity is waning. 

Following the gun control defeat, the sequester, Snowden, Syria and the manifold delays, exclusions and premium increases associated with Obamacare, the president's job approval has been sinking. Polls were showing that voters trusted Republicans slightly more than Democrats to handle the economy, national security and other issues. Obama must be praying for a government shut down.

Republicans see themselves and would like voters to see them as the grown-up party, sober and responsible. Democrats always caricature Republicans as anarchists who want to eliminate government entirely. A futile fight to defund Obamacare that touched off a government shutdown crisis would reinforce the Democrats' indictment and provide a wobbly Obama with the opportunity to change the subject from his own failures to the petulance and recklessness of Republicans.

In a shutdown showdown, Republicans are certain to lose the battle for public opinion. When the question is: "Whose fault is it that government offices are closed?" the public will be more inclined to blame the anti-government party. The press, of course, will side with Democrats. The public opposes Obamacare, but it does not favor shutting down the government in order to thwart it. If Republicans threaten to pull down the house over it, the public will be more likely to perceive it as a personal vendetta against Obama than as a principled policy stand.

Obamacare may be the best thing to happen to the Republican Party's fortunes. When voters see 1) that their premiums are rising; 2) that wait times to see a doctor are increasing; 3) that they are forced to buy insurance they don't want or pay a fine; 4) that they find their spouses are no longer covered by their employers' plans; 5) that they learn they cannot, as promised, keep the plan they were happy with, and more, they will not blame Republicans. Nor will Obama be able to blame this one on Bush. Republicans who focus on the small number of Americans who will get subsidies under Obamacare are missing the bigger picture, which will be widespread discontent.

It may well represent the best political opportunity for Republicans in more than a decade. If they take the Senate in 2014 and the presidency in 2016, it will not be too late to repeal Obamacare. At the rate it's going, it probably won't even be fully operational by then. But Republicans will have to cease their fratricide to take advantage of it.

To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


Tags: News, Columns

Comments (1)

John Paul Jones
12:35PM SEP 28TH 2013
"In a shutdown showdown, Republicans are certain to lose the battle for public opinion. When the question is: "Whose fault is it that government offices are closed?" the public will be more inclined to blame the anti-government party. The press, of course, will side with Democrats."

This is your problem and the problem with too much of the republican "leadership." You push a strategy of trying to trick the electorate into liking you by appealing to what you perceive it likes about democrats. This is a failing strategy. Sure, it may prolong the already long terms of a few republican elected officials but it will never succeed at winning the argument of the benefits of constitutional conservative, free market principles versus the stagnant shared misery of big government socialized control. The argument is winnable but conservatives need to go out and make it. Perhaps those above mentioned republican officials do not really believe it so they are incapable of making it. Then get rid of them! This is a long fight that statists have been already fighting for decades. Crisis to crisis, election to election TACTICs will not gain ground. A strategy of winning the argument on many levels is what is needed. Conservatives need to suck it up and get more involved in law, education, and media and dedicate themselves to communicating the argument. Some already are and it is paying off. Obviously, from reading this article, many are not. Those of you playing the short game, election to election, are not helping this country. We elected people like Cruz and Paul to go make the argument and perform actions consistent with their beliefs. They are doing it. Perhaps if they were not constantly stabbed in the back by their own party they would be a little more civil about it.

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