The results of the NBC/WSJ poll have lifted the mainstream media’s spirits this morning. Republicans are “losing,” Mara Liasson of National Public Radio exulted, suggesting that poor poll results were the reason that House Speaker John Boehner offered President Barack Obama a short-term debt ceiling hike. With Senate GOP inching towards Obama’s position on funding the government without conditions, a cave nears.
Here is the question Republicans need to ask themselves: is it worth fighting through the polls? It certainly was for President Obama and the Democrats, who forced Obamacare through Congress in 2010 despite the fact that the policy was never popular (and is even less so today). Obama also made it clear he was willing to lose elections, not just polls, saying he was prepared to be a one-term president to pass Obamacare.
Republicans have to be just as determined to undo Obamacare if that is ever going to happen. What is more important than the blame game is the principle at stake–actually, two principles: one, that government cannot and should not be in control of individuals’ lives; and two, that the president does not govern by fiat, but must co-govern constitutionally with the other branches of government, especially the legislature.
There are some in the Republican establishment who would, no doubt, welcome a capitulation, believing that a loss would prove that they were right all along. They would not celebrate for long, however. The conservative base that brought the Republican majority to power in the House of Representatives would not return to the campaign trail in 2014. The GOP would return to the opposition benches–for a long time.
Though it is fashionable within the Beltway to mock Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for allegedly not having a strategy beyond giving a long speech and prodding House conservatives to stand up to GOP leadership, the moderate faction had no strategy whatsoever for resisting Obamacare beyond waiting for 2016, hoping that the voters would again trust the big donors to pick the next “only candidate that can win.” Now that’s magical thinking.
The paradox of politics is that in order to win, you must show you are prepared to lose–that there are things beyond power that command your loyalty and self-sacrifice. President Obama was prepared to lose Congress and even the presidency to extend the power of the redistributive state–permanently–through Obamacare. If Republicans cannot find the stomach to face some bad polls, then the party is over, and maybe the country.