"Potentially there will be a collapse of will to keep the government shut down because soldiers are not getting paid, and all this other stuff’s happening, and we turn around and lose 10-20 seats in 2014. And whether we win the battle or not, we’ve lost the war because Nancy Pelosi’s speaker of the House."
-- Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), on why Republicans shouldn't shut down the government to defund Affordable Healthcare
At first I had to do a double-take when reading Mr. Kinzinger's statement, made to the Illinois chapter of Americans For Prosperity, because it was a sane and rational statement and really smart politics, something in short supply on the Republican side of the aisle whenever the Affordable Health Care Act is brought up in adult conversation.
In fact, the Congressman got even more sane and smart when he noted --
"This is not a disagreement on defunding Obamacare. This is not a disagreement on whether or not we hate the health care bill. This is a disagreement on tactics in terms of what is the best way to ensure that in the future we can repeal this law without bringing down the American economy or bringing down the Republican majority in the House."
Imagine that: a Republican willing to stand up to a roomful of far-right Republicans and explain how the general public isn't going to be happy about having the government shut down -- for any reason, but most especially over healthcare. Unfortunately, there is a big problem here.
Others in the room, you see, didn't agree with Congressman Kinzinger -- who probably knows more about politics and political tactics than they do, but why quibble. For instance, one of these in the audience argued that this was probably the last chance the party had to get rid of the Affordable Healthcare Act, and it was wrong for Republicans in Congress to keep "giving it money."
Yet Mr. Kinzinger admirably stood his ground. "What I'm telling you is going to happen, I fear, is that ultimately at the end of the day, we can hold out -- let's hold out until December. Now troops haven't been paid for two months, three months. Obama will stand up and say, 'Sorry you're not getting your paycheck.' The public is massively turning against us saying, 'Jesus, it's the law of the land -- now I see why it's not working, because Republicans have been obstinate on this.'"
Yet still, there's that...er, elephant in the room. The big problem that Republicans like Rep. Kinzinger face. That all Republicans face -- whether they want to face it or not.
The room kept pounding back at the Congressman, unwilling to accept his reasonable, smart political position. If the government was shut down, why wouldn't the president be blamed?! he was asked. You have to love his clear, honest, obvious and self-effacing blunt answer -- "If Congress has a 13 percent approval rating, do you think we can win that one?"
But here's the thing. That big problem I keep referring to that rational Republicans like Adam Kinzinger must deal with in this GOP debate over shutting down the government isn't that those on the far right of the party won't accept this smart, sane, reasonable, rational argument. No, it's something else.
It's that the Republican Party has painted themselves into a corner, and are then further surrounded between a rock and a hard place. And it all goes back to something Mr. Kinzinger himself said previously, which I quoted above --
"This is a disagreement on tactics in terms of what is the best way to ensure that in the future we can repeal this law without bringing down the American economy or bringing down the Republican majority in the House."
That's the problem. Republicans are starting from a losing premise.
They are arguing two options. 1) Shut down the government now, and get the public to hate you so much that you lose your majority in the House. Or 2) Wait for the future to repeal a law that provides healthcare to all Americans...and get the public to hate you so much that you lose your majority in the House.
You see, Republicans think that Americans hate Affordable Healthcare. After all, they point to polls that show the country split between those who like the law and those who don't. But they are ignoring two very important things.
The first is that there are a lot of liberals and progressive who LOVE the idea of affordable healthcare, but they don't like the current law that much...because it doesn't go far enough! So, when asked by pollsters if they like the Affordable Healthcare Act, they say, honestly, no. It's too conservative for them. But they love national healthcare. Love, love, love it.
The second thing Republicans are ignoring is that in this "future" time when they think they can finally get rid of affordable healthcare -- at that point, all of the features of the Affordable Healthcare Act will at last be in place (unlike now, since it's being implemented in steps). And the more the public is covered by all the Act's benefits, the lower costs will get, and the more people will get used to having more and less-expensive healthcare -- the more furious people will be if Republicans try to take away their healthcare.
Imagine if Republicans in Congress actually ever got rid of Social Security (like many in the party wish). Imagine if Republicans in Congress actually got of Medicare (like many in the party wish). Imagine the uproar. Now, imagine if Republicans in Congress got rid of all Americans being covered by lower-cost, better affordable healthcare. And worse, and most especially, replaced it with...nothing.
Rock, meet hard place.
But I still admire Adam Kenzinger for at least trying to inject sanity and common sense in the Republican stream of consciousness.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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