Jonah Goldberg explains for National Review Online readers why there’s no compelling reason for Republicans and conservatives to employ a circular firing squad while assessing the impact of the debate over Obamacare defunding and the partial federal government shutdown.
The core promise of Ted Cruz and Mike Lee wasn’t “We’re going to fill the leadership vacuum in a branch of Congress we weren’t elected to!” Nor was it, “We will educate the public on how bad Obamacare is!” Their core promise was that they were going to defund Obamacare (without needing Democratic votes!) and that their legislative brinksmanship was worth the risks because after October 1, there was no chance of getting rid of it. I bring this up not to relitigate the fight, but to be simply honest about where I am coming from. …
… Perhaps raising awareness about Obamacare alone was worth it. I certainly think the prognostications of GOP doom are almost as overblown as the Beltway hysteria over the government shutdown was in the first place. So maybe hammering home the message that the GOP is foursquare against Obamacare — and that Obamacare is a disaster — is a sufficiently valuable long-term message that it was worth going through all of this. Or he may be wrong. Obviously I have my hunches.
But here’s the important point: It’s all unknowable, certainly in the short term and probably in the long term as well. If the Obamacare program crashes as badly as its website has, public outrage will be sufficiently broad and deep that Republicans will benefit enormously from being able to say “We told you so!” How much of that benefit will be thanks to Cruz & Co. simply can’t be quantified. I would bet that the shutdown plays a relatively minor role in the 2014 and 2016 elections. But even if the shutdown plays a big role, that would be all the more reason for Republicans to find the best and most unifying way to talk about it. Endless internecine screaming about what went wrong is exactly what Obama wanted out of this. Why give it to him if it won’t produce anything worthwhile? As an intellectual or historical question, I think it’s a great thing to debate. As a political touchstone, it’s poisonous.