House Speaker John Boehner insisted to George Stephanopoulos yesterday that he won’t let a clean continuing resolution get voted on in the House until President Obama gives up on whatever it is that the Tea Party demands he give up. Last week it was Obamacare; this week it could be that and something else they’ve added.
Whatever it is, the president isn’t going to give up — at least that’s what the White House is saying — and this time we have reason to believe that. The Republicans, however, do not. After all, he caved the last couple of times on the debt ceiling and the Bush tax cuts. Why should Obamacare be any different?
Because the White House knows that if they give up, that’s it. Game, set, match. The Affordable Care Act is, so far, the legacy of the presidency of Barack Obama, and if he were to surrender on it, he might as well go back to Chicago and be the most popular law professor at Roosevelt University because that is all that will be left to him.
And it’s not just about ego. It would mean that from now on any president of any party would be vulnerable to blackmail by any intransigent faction of a political party. And in this case, it would be a faction of extremists who believe their own fevered conspiracy theories based on nothing more than greed, fear and bigotry.
It’s easy now to say that the president should have seen this coming; that the election of 2010 that ushered in the meshuggeneh caucus of birthers and religious fanatics would have a lasting legacy, even after winning a decisive re-election in 2012. And now, as Paul Krugman notes, we all have to deal with them.
It has been obvious for years that the modern Republican Party is no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy. Whether the issue is climate change or inflation, party members believe what they want to believe, and any contrary evidence is dismissed as a hoax, the product of vast liberal conspiracies.
For a while the party was able to compartmentalize, to remain savvy and realistic about politics even as it rejected objectivity everywhere else. But this wasn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, the party’s attitude toward policy — we listen only to people who tell us what we want to hear, and attack the bearers of uncomfortable news — was bound to infect political strategy, too.
Remember what happened in the 2012 election — not the fact that Mitt Romney lost, but the fact that all the political experts around him apparently had no inkling that he was likely to lose. Polls overwhelmingly pointed to an Obama victory, but Republican analysts denounced the polls as “skewed” and attacked the media outlets reporting those polls for their alleged liberal bias. These days Karl Rove is pleading with House Republicans to be reasonable and accept the results of the 2012 election. But on election night he tried to bully Fox News into retracting its correct call of Ohio — and hence, in effect, the election — for Mr. Obama.
Unfortunately for all of us, even the shock of electoral defeat wasn’t enough to burst the G.O.P. bubble; it’s still a party dominated by wishful thinking, and all but impervious to inconvenient facts. And now that party’s leaders have bungled themselves into a corner.
A lot of Villagers and People In The Know think Mr. Boehner will blink and the Republicans will somehow find a way to declare victory and retreat. After all, to any reasonable person, their position is untenable. But nothing we’ve seen from the GOP indicates that they will.
We are ten days away from the debt ceiling. There’s a lot more at stake than just the legacy of Barack Obama or the speakership of John Boehner. There is the full faith and credit of the U.S. economy, the balance of power in the government, and future of healthcare for several million people who finally have access to insurance to pay for it.