Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What Tea Party Voters Don't Understand

Tea Party voters are a pretty self-assured lot. They're 100 percent certain that if they stand by conservative principles (as they define them), scorning any compromises, a minority can rule the world.

They're also pretty good at discerning apostates. They're the keepers of the one true conservative faith. Anyone who deviates a hair from their prescribed policies -- or even expresses qualms about their political tactics -- is a traitor and a squish, which covers all but a few Republicans in Washington.

Those exceptional few are the only politicians they listen to, as they generally prefer the advice of talk radio hosts who don’t have a responsibility to govern, only to make money for themselves and their advertisers. Even the pols they respect have to be watched closely for signs of incipient complicity in the disgrace of incrementally fixing what’s wrong with government rather than burning the whole thing down and starting over.

That’s how Sen. Ted Cruz found himself in hot water with his Tea Party supporters. For weeks he had demanded House Republicans stand fast and pass legislation to fund the government only if it denied funding for Obamacare. When his like-minded lawmakers in the House forced their leadership to send the Senate a bill that would effectively kill the 2010 law, Cruz congratulated them on having the courage of their convictions. Then he promptly explained that they couldn’t expect much help from him. He’s just one guy. Harry Reid runs the Senate, and there are too few non-squishes in the Senate Republican caucus to stop Reid from doing his worst.

Predictably, Cruz’s supporters, not to mention House Republicans, were dismayed by his newfound practicality and they let him know it. So, quick as you please, he went back to doing the thing he does best, telling the Tea Party exactly what it wants to hear. According to Cruz, all that’s required to rid the country of this “terrible law” is for Senate Republicans to filibuster the very bill that Republicans in the House passed.

Obamacare might be a lousy law, but it is a law. It was passed by both houses of Congress, and signed by a president. And this president, having been comfortably re-elected last year, remains in office, veto pen at the ready. The law was found to be constitutional by the Supreme Court, which has a conservative chief justice and four other conservative jurists.

Repealing it will require more than a determined minority. It will take a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, and almost certainly a Republican president. The Democrats who now control the Senate certainly won’t pass the House bill. They’ll strip all Obamacare-related provisions from it. If Senate Republicans successfully filibuster the bill, Harry Reid will let the whole thing die and the government will shut down.

It probably won’t come to that because those perfidious Republican squishes won’t let it.

Why? Because, dear bravehearts, you don’t have the numbers to prevail. You’re a minority. You’re a minority in Congress and you’re a minority in the country. A majority of Americans might tell pollsters they don’t like Obamacare, but guess what? They like the idea of shutting down government even less, as every recent survey has shown. And they’ll blame Republicans for it -- and make them pay for it.

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