I enjoy and admire Michael Medved, so it is with some reluctance that I attack his op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, which is both cringing and cringeworthy, and represents much that is wrong with the mentality of today’s GOP establishment.
Medved warns that Republican resistance to the immigration reform bill, and ongoing GOP efforts to defund Obamacare, raise “false hopes among the base” but ensure the party’s self-destruction.
He labors under the very simple misconception that a government shutdown would be “wildly unpopular,” that there is some reservoir of public trust in the government that would reward Republicans for making it work according to Obama’s design. That leads Medved to nonsensical arguments, such as that Obamacare can be “fixed,” or that the rule of law can be “extended” to those aliens who have defied it (while others obeyed it).
In fact, a recent Rasmussen poll shows that a majority of Americans would prefer to see a partial government shutdown rather than suffering the implementation of Obamacare, a law that is costing both money and jobs. And opinion polls have consistently shown that while the public supports a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants, Americans want border security first–to know with certainty that this amnesty really will be the last.
By holding the line against a fatally flawed immigration bill, standing up to Obamacare, and–Medved could have added–opposing yet another increase in the debt ceiling, Tea Party conservatives are connecting to the majority of Americans whose preferences and aspirations are being ignored by Washington, and whom GOP opinion leaders wrongly believe can be courted by offering weaker versions of Democrat policies they dislike.
Republicans, understandably, have worried about what Mitt Romney’s poor showing in 2012 among Hispanic voters portends for the GOP’s future, and blame his opposition to amnesty. Those same Republicans, however, tend to ignore the fact that Romney was incapable of challenging Obamacare–a law that is not only bad health policy but whose passage marked a rupture between government and the governed that has not healed.
Medved, like many establishment critics of new Republican leaders like Sen. Ted Cruz, cites the GOP’s image as the “party of no,” but takes the obstruction of the Democrat-controlled Senate as both given and acceptable. Notably, the Republicans he singles out for praise–Scott Walker, John Kasich, Sam Brownback and Chris Christie–are all governors. That suggests a deeper failure to understand or accept the need for opposition.
It is worth remembering that many of the same Republican pundits who today counsel compromise on Obamacare were terrified of Scott Walker’s defiant stance against the public sector unions in 2011–a conflict that shut down the state legislature but whose benefits continue to boost Wisconsin’s fortunes. Kasich failed in a similar effort in Ohio but that fight has not damaged his overall prospects. Standing on principle rarely does.
The Republican establishment is addicted to governing, and thinks of political power narrowly in those terms. It has failed to realize the depth of mistrust in government itself, and the public hunger for leadership–in power or in opposition–that is willing to take aim at a Goliath that both parties have fed.
Ironically, the Republican path back to power is the very strategy that Medved, with the best intentions, wants conservatives to avoid.