Rolling the Hard Six
A majority of Tea Partiers support Republican candidates and comprise a large percentage of the Republican base. But many have been disappointed with the GOP and feel frustrated, as well as marginalized by the party. They feel unappreciated and used -- as if they are needed only to phone bank, precinct walk, donate, and show up at events and then, after the election, are forgotten. They feel looked down upon by the "establishment," as if they are the crazy uncle everyone tolerates at Thanksgiving dinner. Occasionally, candidates backed by Tea Party groups have not been supported by the GOP and, well, we've seen how some GOP leaders have treated some House and Senate members elected with Tea Party support.
(This is not to say the Tea Party has been without blame. Some Tea Party leaders and candidates have also demonstrated less than respectful or exemplary behavior towards GOP leaders and candidates.)
Candidates tend to do a good job listening to voters, but once they land in the Rayburn or Hart Building, they seem to forget that listening to and representing their constituents is their number one responsibility. As journalist-author Mark Leibovich said about the fate of elected officials once they get to DC, "They go there to do good, but instead do well."
If the GOP wants Tea Partiers to take the party, its candidates, and elected officials seriously, they need to provide reassurance; a gesture of good will. That's what Defund ObamaCare was all about. That's what Ted Cruz and Mike Lee understood.
Sure, they are novice senators with limited legislative experience -- especially compared to lifers like Mitch McConnell and John McCain. But, contrary to the barrage of negative commentary in conservative publications and the endless parade of pundits and politicos on Fox calling them stupid, rash, not forward thinking, strategically challenged, etc., they don't deserve to be publicly and relentlessly lambasted by their own kind. They aren't constitutionally or legislatively ignorant. They knew the Defund effort was fraught with risk and unlikely to yield much of anything but awareness and create some much needed good will with the base.
Critics in the chattering class also feign great concern that "Cruz and Co." misled poor, unassuming Tea Partiers into expecting an endgame -- that enough Democrats would join them to successfully defund ObamaCare. Really? I don't know anyone who felt misled or thought such promises were made. When probed about their expectations, they were clear: to stand on principle and fulfill their campaign pledges to fight ObamaCare. When pushed further, they speculated that if enough time passed, enough public pressure came to bear and all Republicans joined together, it was possible some Democrats in conservative districts might do the same. There are quite a few "if's" there. No one was deceived.
Sometimes, you have to roll the hard six and that's what "Cruz and Co." did. Yes, you can ride your principles right off a cliff, but there are times -- especially when you really don't have that much to lose -- when you can stick to your principles in the hope that such a stand today, will redound to your benefit tomorrow. That's a risk Cruz and Lee thought worth taking. Any payoff will materialize in the long run.
The short-term gain was not to win Democrat votes or somehow -- miraculously -- repeal ObamaCare. The real accomplishment -- the one no one is talking about -- is obeisance to the base and galvanizing grassroots support for 2014 by showing voters that the individuals they voted for are indeed listening and following through on campaign promises.
I actually understand the criticisms of the Defund ObamaCare effort -- in its infancy, I wasn't sure this was the way forward. The strategic pitfalls pointed out by experts like Karl Rove, were palpable. I needed a way to think about this, so, I turned to Donald Rumsfeld.
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. Given the monopoly the Democrat-Media Complex has over the dissemination of information, no matter what position Republicans might have taken, they would be blamed for anything Obama didn't agree with in connection with the government shutdown, debt ceiling, budget, or continuing resolution. Because the media is wholly in Obama's pocket, Republicans would immediately take the heat in public opinion polls. This was a certainty. So, yes, we got bloodied in the short run, but it would have happened whether we stood our ground to defund ObamaCare or not. The only way it could not have happened, would have been if we had completely capitulated to Obama's wishes 100% from the get-go without any resistance.
There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. Contrary to popular conservative punditry belief, we actually do not know how this will play out at the polls in 2014. What we do know is that ObamaCare is a wild card that might work to our benefit. As the rollout continues, we will gain more certitude about the role this "known unknown" will have. Unfortunately, today's left-leaning, low-information voters lack the imagination and understanding to think ahead. Like little kids who don't have the mental acuity to fully grasp the world around them, liberals have to touch the stove and get burned before they can intuit, imagine, or comprehend the impact ObamaCare will have on their lives. While we might get bloodied at the polls in 2014, as ObamaCare continues to be implemented and stays at the forefront of the national conversation, that "known unknown" just might play in our favor.
But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. This is the law of unintended consequences, that which is unpredictable, the kink in the chain we can't see today that might happen and affect tomorrow. Given the chaotic state of our economy, the tenuous nature of our foreign policy, the instability of the Middle East, our deteriorating culture, anything can happen in the next few years that might tilt the scales.
A swift kick in the behind today doesn't necessarily translate into crippling mid-terms in 2014 or a Democrat presidential victory in 2016.
That is, as long as we play our cards right. That means people I generally hold in high regard like Jennifer Rubin, John Podhoretz, and Peter King -- to name just a few in the conservative commentariat -- while entitled to their opinions, should either tone down the rhetoric for the good of us all or just "stifle it" as Archie Bunker used to say. Our ability to get anything done is hampered by the senseless finger pointing, recriminations, and calls for Republicans to "disassociate" themselves from Ted Cruz. Do they really think snarky comments antagonizing the defund proponents will create party unity?
The conservative press is also pushing the mantra that unsuspecting Tea Party rubes walked blindly into Obama's trap -- to have the radical Tea Party faction foment the shutdown so Obama could use it as leverage against the GOP. But a trap is something one is lured into unwittingly, taken by surprise. Cruz and Lee weren't oblivious to the risks associated with their defund stance. No one was duped. Disappointed in the outcome maybe, but not duped.
The real trap here -- the one we are walking into today -- is the one Obama set as soon as the 2012 election left the House under Republican control: to get Republicans focused on divisive issues in order to destroy the GOP from within, as they eat their own.
Maybe Republican leadership has been unaware but the party has been crumbling from within for quite some time. Calls for moderation, disagreement about immigration and the perpetuation of Big Government -- among other issues -- have left many social conservatives and Tea Partiers disillusioned with the party, threatening to withhold financial and GOTV support. As alternatives, they have considered leaving the GOP, not voting at all and starting a third party -- guaranteeing Democrat electoral hegemony for decades. This is not good.
Despite its negatives, the defund effort brought back into the fold those Republicans on the verge of leaving. Once Republican legislators showed they were willing to go to bat for the grassroots and roll the hard six, it established serious good will with the base. When you barely control one-half of one-third of the power in Washington and can't get much done, cultivating harmony at home might not be a bad idea.
As for the circular firing squads with their "I told you so's" and Tea Party putdowns? That only benefits the Democrats.
No, Cruz and Lee weren't blindsided. They went into this with their eyes wide open and took a calculated risk to roll the hard six. This has reinvigorated the base. The question is where do we go from here? I suggest we stop the rebukes and stay on high alert so when the "unknown unknowns" become clear, we'll be ready as a unified party to exploit them to our advantage.