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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Sargent: GOP’s Messy Retreat from Shutdown Not Likely to Help Image

From Greg Sargent’s Morning Plum post, “GOP leaders retreat from the abyss“:

The conservative push for a government shutdown over Obamacare has created a dilemma for GOP leaders. They know a shutdown fight is dangerously insane for the party. But they are reluctant to say so out loud, because that will give the shutdown brigade something to organize around (that liberal squish GOP establishment is too weak-kneed to do whatever is necessary to finally defeat Obama tyranny). GOP leaders paper over this problem by claiming GOP unity behind the general goal of defunding Obamacare while refraining from the argument over tactics, but this only leaves the central tension unresolved.

The Republicans appear to be splitting into two factions: the Crazies vs. the Malevolent Pragmatists, if pegging their party’s identity to a hopeless effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act can be thought of a s pragmatic. Sargent continues:

Jonathan Chait noted recently that the problem with the GOP establishment’s discomfort with the shutdown push is that those same establishment figures believe “all other measures to attack Obamacare are fully justified,” from the withholding of bipartisan support for fixes to the law to the vow by some GOP officials not to help constituents with it. That’s true, but it may also be true that the push for a shutdown — combined with the fact that the law is gearing up this fall — is shining a harsher light on the reality of the GOP position on Obamacare, in the process rendering it less tenable…
Republicans have devised two ways out of this predicament. The first is to promise yet again to roll out an alternative to Obamacare this fall, one focused on keeping the popular parts of the law, as GOP leadership pollster Winston again hints at above. But if this is met by a conservative revolt, as happened last time, it will only underscore the problem with the GOP position in the first place, i.e., that many Republicans simply don’t envision a meaningful role for government to play in fixing the health care system.
The second is to continue pledging fealty to the destruction of Obamacare as a higher calling while retreating from staging a shutdown over it, a strategy Costa has forced out into the open above. But there is no telling whether this is possible. Thanks to heightened conservative expectations for a series of Apocalyptic showdowns this fall — expectations fed by literally years of acquiescence to The Crazy by GOP leaders — we don’t know if House Republicans are capable of passing a measure temporarily funding the government even at current levels. It’s very possible a shutdown will be averted. But even if it is, the process may well be messy and destructive, possibly damaging the GOP posture on Obamacare even further, just as the law’s benefits kick in.

Shutdown or not, it appears that the Republicans have blundered themselves into an embarrassing dilemma, and it’s hard to see any way they come out of it looking unified or smart to rational swing voters. All Dems need to do is to keep shining light on their extremists, and holding their “moderates” to account for it.

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