Answer this Question, Grover
The mainstream media loves it when conservatives step out to criticize... conservatives. Hence, the gleeful coverage of Grover Norquist's criticism of Ted Cruz. Norquist used the Washington Post's WONKBLOG feature to unload on Cruz. He did so to the Post's Ezra Klein last Wednesday.
The gist of Norquist's criticism of Cruz is that he's the Music Man. With a smile and a lot of glib talk and airy promises -- and a few snappy tunes -- Cruz duped enough House Republicans and grassroots conservatives into backing a play to defund ObamaCare that had a snowball's chance in hell of passing. Moreover, Cruz' maneuver succeeded only in disrupting the Republicans' well-calibrated strategy, vexing GOP insiders.
But Richard A. Viguerie, a maker of the Reagan Revolution, and very much committed to making another conservative revolution, writing in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, had this to say about Cruz, et al:
Sens. Lee and Cruz have, through their principled opposition to funding ObamaCare, re-energized millions of grassroots conservative voters who were turned off by the Republican establishment's content-free technocratic campaign in 2012.
A key feature of the insiders' strategy was to push for a one-year delay in ObamaCare's individual mandate. A delay in the individual mandate would require a vote in the Senate, however (the Republican-controlled House passed the measure).
The Senate is up for grabs in 2014. Making Democrats vote up or down on a delay would put vulnerable Democratic senators in precarious positions, forcing many to vote for a delay to improve their reelection chances -- or with the president, thereby damaging their reelection bids.
By all accounts, a one-year delay in the individual mandate would create all sorts of problems for ObamaCare.
According to the Washington Post's Sarah Kliff, writing at the Post's WONKBLOG:
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, without an individual mandate, 11 million fewer people would gain coverage next year.
That would happen for two reasons. First, fewer people would buy health insurance coverage without a federal law requiring them to do so. Second, the people who signed up would likely be sicker people, who really thought they would use the coverage. That would cause premiums to spike, making the market a tougher sell for healthy people.
And this from Kliff's report:
A delay to the individual mandate -- or the entire law -- would also have a giant ripple effect throughout health-care industries, who have spent the past three years preparing for a 2014 launch. They've spent millions on marketing and outreach, writing business plans that hinge on a significant expansion of the health insurance market next year.
So passage of a one-year delay seems smart politically for Republicans.
But here's the rub. Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders (that includes the president) have no intention of allowing a Senate vote on a one-year delay. That's nonnegotiable. Reid and Mr. Obama would have to allow at-risk Democrats to cast yea votes or chance losing the Senate in 2014. Not happening.
The individual mandate has been termed the "cornerstone" of the individual market under ObamaCare. When you can't force people to buy health insurance (or think you can't via taxes, aka, penalties), then you have the potential for an implosion. Mr. Obama and Reid are acutely aware of that fact, too. They're not about to let a key element of ObamaCare be delayed.
The one-year delay in the individual mandate is untenable for the reasons stated. As untenable as getting defunding through. But pushing defunding initially was a more compelling argument with longer term strategic advantages.
Here's what Norquist had to say to Klein about a delay:
The second thought was to have a conversation over the one-year delay. A two-month conversation about delay would be healthy for the body politic. And maybe you'd get the delay. There's no shame in the delay. Microsoft is always delaying Office. You could do it without humiliating the president.
We can only assume that Norquist is being disingenuous about "maybe" getting a delay. Norquist isn't blinkered about Washington's politics and personalities after all his years there. Mr. Obama isn't going to cut any deals that adversely affect his signature policy -- his legacy, if you will. Or do anything to jeopardize the massive government expansion so vital to the Democratic Party's fortunes.
And Norquist's desire for a two-month conversation about a delay? Not a bad tactic, but of lesser value considering that a majority of Americans oppose ObamaCare as is. The lines have long been drawn for or against ObamaCare. How many voters are undecided about ObamaCare?
A national dialogue about the merits and demerits of the individual mandate are less important than actions and explanations of actions about scrapping ObamaCare. A one-year delay in the individual mandate will not pass, so why not have used defunding as the opening salvo? Defunding is an unambiguous declaration consistent yet again with the majority's will. It better sets the terms for 2014 election debates.
In pushing defunding, Cruz' instinct was better than Norquist's or other Republican insiders. As Richard Viguerie pointed out, Cruz struck a chord with grassroots conservatives across the nation. The "Don't Fund ObamaCare" petition has collected over two million electronic signatures to date and has helped galvanize grassroots' support for defunding.
When Cruz jumped into the leadership on defunding, much of the grassroots support for him arose spontaneously. Grassroots conservatives strongly grasp the intent of Mr. Obama's health care initiative: it's a statist power grab and a health-care wrecker. They've been looking for leaders who will say so.
A one-year delay in the individual mandate isn't exactly a rallying cry, either. Bold action and passion count quite a lot when attempting to not just topple ObamaCare, but perhaps -- just perhaps -- set in motion a train of events that will eventually unravel a century's worth of statism. Big idea, that -- too big and uncomfortable for Republican fixers.
Other points that Norquist made to Klein were that Cruz promised Democrat votes on defunding that he failed to deliver and that he had no end-strategy.
How does Norquist propose delivering Senate Democratic votes for a one-year delay? He doesn't; he just offers his "conversation" about a delay as the consolation prize.
At this juncture, what's the Republicans' takeaway in their differences with the president and Senate Democrats? An increase in the debt limit, maybe some spending restraints, and removing the exemption from the individual mandate for Congress and staffers?
Norquist also commented that the Republicans' sequester strategy was about more than ObamaCare, citing entitlement reform, the Keystone pipeline, fracking, and overall energy development as other important aims.
While entitlement reform is needed (though Paul Ryan's plan doesn't go far enough), and the Keystone Pipeline and domestic energy independence are critical to the nation's future, ObamaCare presently overrides those concerns.
It'll be easier for a future Republican president and Congress to clear obstacles to energy development or pass the rather modest and gradual entitlement reforms championed by Congressman Ryan than to uproot ObamaCare. Strangling the baby in its crib, so to speak, is smarter than permitting it to grow into a giant. Giants are much harder to kill.
Here again, Cruz' instincts were correct. The fight against ObamaCare must be audacious and taken next year to the voters in stark terms, giving them clear choices.
It's Republican insiders -- like Norquist -- who are so immersed in the Washington game that they fail to appreciate the hunger at the grassroots for leadership committed to national transformation -- for not just an end to ObamaCare, but a revitalization of the nation premised on founding principles.
Or maybe they do appreciate that hunger but want no part of it. What's your answer, Grover?
That hunger is real and deep among grassroots conservatives, who will continue to seek expression through new leaders, be they Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, or others who will arise in the coming months and years to tap the pent-up energy for liberty-revitalizing historic change.