In the end, we got a terrible economic deal, but a nice political gift. Congress essentially kicked the problem down the road and ensured that early January would mark the beginning of other round of hostage-taking on the part of the right, more attacks on the health care law, and an intransigence on raising revenue in a fiscal deal that will raise hypocrisy to a new level, after they lambasted the president for not negotiating on the debt. Which he did. Anyway.
Even worse is listening to chastened Republicans talk about the importance of bipartisanship and how they hope that Democrats learn the lesson that they shouldn’t do this when they’re in the GOP’s position. Remember: Only the right can shut down the government and scare the world into thinking we’d default on our loans.
The good news is that this deal was worse for the Republicans than even I thought it would be. It was clear that this gambit was not going to help them, and Ted Cruz made it even better for the left because he was convinced that everyone outside of the major cities agreed that the ACA was from the devil and needed to be exorcised. The president stood his ground and public opinion shifted severely away from the GOP. It will take quite a bit of work on their part just to maintain their ranks in the Congress next year. They can kiss the Senate goodbye and might even lose the House, gerrymandered or not.
That this all occurred at the same time that the ACA rollout produced disastrous results makes the episode even sweeter, and is the political equivalent of rubbing salt in right wing eyes. If they had played it straight, they could have earned two years of political capital and would have had the Democrats on the run. But the right made sure that the computer problems will be mostly fixed by the time they’re ready to renew their attacks, and most people won’t pay attention anyway.
The only positive redemption I can see is if the GOP makes the debt and deficit an issue that only they can solve. The public is on their side on that argument, but that would also include cuts to Medicare and Social Security that will not go down well. The shutdown showed that Americans were upset because national parks were closed. Does the GOP think we’d also like to privatize entitlements? I think not.
Let’s hope that Barack Obama keeps his spine straight and forces the right to accept a deficit deal mostly on his terms and without significant consequences for the health care bill. He can also push the immigration bill while the right is down and hope that enough of them see fit to change their minds. Probably not, but it’s fun to dream.
In any case, enjoy the next six weeks. Then it all starts again.0