How Ted Cruz Won the Shutdown Drama
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his Republican colleagues won the shutdown drama in October. However, the effects are still gradually rippling through the electorate. And the full results will depend upon Republicans understanding the strategy (they don't) and continuing to implement conservatives' obvious plan consistently for maximum impact (unlikely).
Approval has dropped five percent for President Barack Obama since the October government shutdown, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal opinion survey. Obama's disapproval rating has reached a toxic 51 percent -- as even Obama-worshiping NBC News admits. Over 50 percent of voters disapproving is considered fatal for an incumbent office holder, at least if he were facing re-election. In a sense he is -- facing the 2014 congressional elections.
Forty-seven percent now think that ObamaCare is a bad idea, up from forty-three percent in this same poll from early October. The race for governor in Virginia has tightened up to within four percent, although Ken Cuccinelli's Mitt Romney-style campaign probably won't withstand the outrageous, unanswered lies told about him by the Democrat.
Skeptics ask: What was achieved by Ted Cruz with his 21-hour filibuster against ObamaCare on the floor of the U.S. Senate? What did Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives accomplish by trying to delay or defund ObamaCare?
To start with, Obama's nice-guy mask slipped, letting average voters see Obama's snarl. Talk show host Roger Hedgecock started calling the President "Barack Obey-Me" due to his arrogant behavior. The mask slipped because Republicans knocked it aside. Obama's shutdown "theater of the absurd" revealed a vindictive, petty tyrant in conflict with his political image, carefully created for superficial "hope and change" voters.
Second, Ted Cruz made it very clear that the ObamaCare disaster is the Democrats' baby. Sen. Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee, and other Republicans succeeded in sharply separating the Republican Party from then-looming disasters, now upon us. So now Democrats own this mess lock, stock, and barrel. Failing to distance the Grand Old Party from ObamaCare on the eve of its disastrous roll-out would have been foolish.
Third, the strategy of conservative Republicans always incorporated a "Second Act" that must follow whenever ObamaCare inevitably fell apart. Cruz anticipated that the American people would realize eventually: "Holy Cow! Those Republicans were right!" In fact, Cruz seized on a perfect opportunity, like a tennis ball hanging in mid-air in perfect position for a tennis pro to smash it effortlessly over the net. But the impacts are still in the process of unfolding.
The ObamaCare website fiasco was part of Ted Cruz's strategy all along. In fact, it did not take any kind of genius to know that these embarrassing developments were coming -- only the courage to act on insight. Millions of Americans being canceled from their insurance and sticker shock from shockingly high rate increases were all built in to the Democrats' Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
However, it is absurd to view the situation as only a snapshot, viewing only one limited moment in time. A war is not won in a single skirmish. Cruz's critics narrowly view the shutdown as only one single event, not as part of an overall strategy.
Fourth, conservatives understand Ronald Reagan's techniques: winning the policy debate in the public square (eventually) drives elections. Appealing to the public on issues (eventually) changes the votes in Congress.
Critics wrung their hands because Republicans did not -- yet -- have enough votes in Congress to impose conservative policies. But Ted Cruz is following Reagan's approach, knowing that persuading the public eventually changes votes in Congress. Reagan appealed directly to the voters, and - with persistence - he dominated our nation's politics.
Fifth, Cruz's critics argue that the shutdown interfered with the public relations failure of the October 1 roll-out of ObamaCare. They claim that conservatives bumped embarrassing news for Obama off the front pages of the news. Nonsense.
It was always obvious that the ObamaCare flop would be a long-running, slow-motion train wreck stretching over weeks or months. Spending a week or two on the debt ceiling and budget was never going to "step on" news about the much longer, extensive roll-out drama. Conservative Republicans could easily see that. The Republican battle actually intensified the ObamaCare mess in news coverage by focusing attention on the topic.
Meanwhile, the ObamaCare roll-out fiasco is being experienced in person, firsthand, by voters. Usually voters are learning about an issue only through the news. Here, liberal journalists cannot filter or spin voters' real-world experiences.
Sixth, consider further the importance of sharply distancing the Republican Party from ObamaCare. To reshape the country, liberals always have to sucker gullible Republicans into sharing the blame. One of the greatest weapons liberals have to "fundamentally transform America" is to deny the voters a choice.
When there is "not a dime's worth of difference between the Republican and the Democrat," then liberal Democrats can get away with almost anything. They leave the voters nowhere to go, no alternative to vote for, no way to stop the transformation of the USA into a European socialist backwater. The roll-out debacle will not help Republicans in the 2014 elections unless the voters clearly understand that Republicans fought against ObamaCare.
In spite of all of this, Washington insiders desperately want to convince us that Republicans "lost" the showdown over the government shutdown. After the 1995 and 1996 government shutdowns, Republicans gained three U.S. Senate seats and lost three U.S. House seats (which is a rounding error for the House in a typical election year). Newt Gingrich won most of the Republican caucus's policy goals over several years. The shutdowns in the 1990s were actually a net win for the GOP.
Yet like the Jedi mind trick in "Star Wars," defenders of the status quo chant the claim over and over that Republicans were hurt by the fight over passing a continuing resolution to fund the government and over raising the debt limit. They hope that weak-minded voters will believe it.
Big-government advocates don't want conservatives to use the levers and influence they have available. They seek to neuter conservatives in American political life. They try to convince conservatives not to use the power conservatives have.
But everything will now depend upon whether Republicans follow through. Of course, every advantage gained in politics or military battle depends upon continuing the campaign and making the most of whatever is gained. Unfortunately, a failure to understand the advantages won will mean that progress is not made use of or maximized, but lost.