The Republican Party has experienced a calamity -- the reelection 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 Republicans 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.