The drama of the past three weeks has revealed a vein of despair and rage among conservatives. I share their feelings about what is happening to the country, even as I believe their tactics have made things worse (only temporarily, one hopes).
Is America gradually becoming a slow-growth, high-unemployment, sclerotic, bureaucratically top-heavy nation like France, Italy and Great Britain? Yes. Was the nation already stumbling under the weight of unsustainable promises made in the form of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and government pensions before Obama added another entitlement? Yes. Is the U.S. receding as a world power in favor of Russia and China? Yes. Is the federal government encouraging dependency through prolonged unemployment, welfare and food stamp benefits? Yes, yes, yes.
So take a stand over Obamacare, show how strongly you feel, shut it down? Republicans (there is no "Republican establishment," despite the fulminations of the direct-mail and talk radio types) followed that script. Sen. Ted Cruz and others argued that the reason Obamacare still stands is Republicans have been too timid to resist it. They promised that drawing a line on defunding the law would lead to victory as Senate Democrats folded and pressured Obama to do the same. How did that work out? Is Sen. Cruz now a member of the "surrender caucus" because he did not contest the deal to end the disastrous shutdown?
It's dull to recite the details, but Republicans are demonstrably worse off than they would have been by passing a "clean" continuing resolution Sept. 30. That would have maintained sequestration-level spending until Nov. 15 and would have preserved the debt ceiling deadline as leverage for other items -- such as forcing the executive and Congress to live with Obamacare sans subsidies, eliminating the medical device tax or delaying the individual mandate. As it is, Republicans have been forced into surrender on nearly everything and are viewed more unfavorably than ever because of the strategic blunder of the people crying "no surrender!"