What happened in Congress with the government shutdown this month? Who won and who lost? Amidst all the noise from the punditry, it can be hard to tell. I know what the left-wing media reports: “Crazy tea party Republicans defeated.” And I know what some of the conservative groups that I love and respect believe: “Irresponsible, weak RINOs caved, and fiscal conservatives lost.” But what really happened?
My read is that the Republicans engaged in a successful standoff with the big-spending Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House. Thanks to a small faction of dedicated conservatives, Republicans are poised for massive gains in 2014—if they don’t blow it.
It’s important that we remember that despite their control of only the House, Republicans have managed to drive spending down in D.C. In real, measurable terms, government spending has been falling, in part because of sequestration. Sequestration has been preserved through this fight and will continue to keep spending down, unless the Republicans choose to negotiate it away for better and longer-term cuts. Score one for the fiscal conservatives.
While fast-talking, self-assured teleconomists paraded across our screens advising us that the markets were on the verge of a meltdown, the markets did no such thing; instead they rallied. Much as we saw during the run up to the sequester cuts, once again no one believed the crazy predictions of the president and Democrats in Congress. Despite the warnings of the media that those crazy tea party Republicans were going to destroy our country, no such thing happened. Score another one for the citizens.
Imagine the power of the true conservatives in Congress. A small faction of rational fiscal conservatives was able to scare the majority ruling elite in both houses of Congress and the White House until they trembled in fear. They were able to hold the line long enough to make them think, “These people are crazy. They might actually do what they say.” Only the truly committed warrior, standing against the odds and certain of the righteousness of the cause, can achieve such a victory.
Some day soon, some big-spending liberal Democrats will come up with the great idea of raising the marginal tax rate, or expanding an already bloated, bankrupt program, and the mainstream in both parties will shudder at the idea of another crazy tea party uprising. Do they really want another Ted Cruz filibuster (fake or not) where he gathers millions of signatures and millions of dollars, increasing his power and influence even further? Nope. They now fear it, as they should.
And while some Republicans in D.C. lament the lack of “strategy” by Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Steve King, and others, those who stood and fought have protected the conservative brand. What does the party stand for if not fiscal conservatism and limited government? If the Republicans will not stand and fight for these things, who will?
The public now knows there are those in Congress who will stand and fight against the growth and intrusion of the federal government, and those people are not Democrats. According to recent polling by Gallup, 60 percent of Americans say that the federal government is too big. The public knowledge that Republicans will fight against that behemoth is most definitely a victory.
I’m not talking about whether this “strategy” created a short-term legislative win in D.C. I’m talking about remaking the Republican Party into something that people will join, fight for and believe in. Those who stood and fought fired up the base. They hoisted the standard of limited government and rode into glorious battle against the enemies of freedom. That’s something to celebrate in the short term and something that will resonate in the longer term.
In the long run, Republicans showed themselves to be the arch-enemies of Obamacare. The byzantine system created by the president, Nancy Pelosi, and their cronies will collapse under its own weight. Even in its first weeks of implementation, it is already doing so. The American people hated the partisan way in which it was passed, hated the bill itself when it was passed, and hate it more than ever today. A Real Clear Politics poll average shows that the American people are against it by an average 10.5 percent margin. And the people are only beginning to feel the pain.
By November 2014, millions will have lost their jobs or seen their working hours reduced to part-time. Thousands of doctors will have left medicine. The economy will continue to suffer. And the people will be very, very angry. When that time comes, and come it will, people will think of Sen. Ted Cruz, the man who was willing to stand for 21 hours on the Senate floor against Obamacare, and the Republicans who stood with him. Still sound like such a crazy strategy? I’m looking forward to the midterms.
I also hear much lament from the Republican “leadership” that we missed an opportunity to be focusing on the poor rollout of Obamacare. Really? At the launch of something massive like this, expectations are at their lowest. People expect glitches, problems, and missteps on rollouts, and are generally forgiving. I’m happy that we were focused on the bigger problem of the imposition of this program against the will of the American people instead of the details on rollout. That’s good strategy.
High expectations serve the long-term strategy of repeal, and the shaming and removal from political power of those responsible. Obamacare cannot and will not be fixed. Even if they somehow manage to improve the computer architecture, which is probably not possible, the system is still a disaster and this fact will become more and more apparent as time goes on. If we want to rid ourselves of Obamacare (and clearly the majority of Americans do), and if we want to rid ourselves of the Democrats who brought this monstrosity upon us, it’s not the elevation of short-term glitches on the launch that will do it. Score another one for those who stood their ground.
Finally, I want to address those who are vilifying the Republicans who did not necessarily stand their ground in the way that I and many other conservatives would like. Some of those being attacked are really solid conservatives. I agree that they did the wrong thing here. No one’s perfect. But let’s make sure that we make distinctions between people like Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain, and Senators Tom Coburn and Ron Johnson. Graham and McCain deserve the vilification (and they are not alone). But Coburn, Johnson, and others like them deserve their place in the conservative camp. It’s time to stop the attacks, circle the troops, and devise a solid, cohesive, winning strategy for 2014.
The stage has been set by the success of what many saw as a “non-strategy” at best. 2014 looks bright. The question now is, will Republicans snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as they so often do? Or will they remember Reagan, and boldly reestablish the dominance of the conservative principles he represented? Let’s hope they stop the in-fighting, let conservative ideals lead the way, and don’t blow it.