The federal government shutdown was rated by most observers as a disaster for Republicans. Yet the failure of Obamacare has sent Democrats into a panic, and should prompt a re-evaluation of the October fight. There is no doubt that Democrats would not be in the same political mess if they had agreed to a one-year delay in Obamacare, perhaps in exchange for passage of immigration reform. Now they have no way out.
Republicans who were willing to shut down the government in order to stop Obamacare now look prescient. If it can be said that the “defund Obamacare” movement was brash to believe that Republicans could govern from one house of Congress, that belief is less foolish than Democrats’ fercent faith that Obamacare was going to work–a conviction that ignored all of the warning signs that were visible long before Oct. 1.
Before the shutdown, I suggested that a one-year delay was an “obvious” win-win solution. It would allow Republicans to say they had done all they could to stop Obamacare, and would allow Democrats the time they needed to fix it. I was wrong (as I later acknowledged), because I underestimated President Barack Obama’s refusal to make any deal–and I overestimated Democrats’ knowledge about their own policy.
Democrats were being told by propaganda outlets like Media Matters that the policy was going well. In one infamous post on Oct. 1, “Right-Wing Media Frantically Spin Obamacare Exchange Success Into Failure,” Media Matters actually claimed: “millions of Americans are signing up for the health care program.” That is more delusional than anything conservatives told themselves about the prospects of defunding Obamacare.
Now it is even more obvious that Democrats should have taken Republicans’ offer to fund the federal government but delay the individual mandate for a year. Look at all they would have avoided: the public loss of trust in President Obama; the outrage over being forced to buy insurance on a faulty website after losing individual coverage; and, above all, the collapse of public confidence in the prospects of big government.
Republicans were blamed for the shutdown–but not much more than the president. The shutdown also reminded voters that the GOP stands firmly for repeal. It also saw the Democrats cast votes against delaying or amending Obamacare. Yes, the Tea Party looked rash. But its approval ratings are not quite so bad in the ABC/WaPo poll. On further review, the shutdown does not look so bad. It may even have been a win.