The GOP Establishment’s Politics of Fear Turns Touchdowns Into Interceptions

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 and is filed under Blog, Elections, Issues

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This article is cross posted from Daniel Horowitz’s column at

The GOP Establishment’s Politics of Fear Turns Touchdowns into Interceptions

By: Daniel Horowitz | March 4th, 2015

Republicans have always been driven to sell out their principles based on unfounded and irrational fear of outcomes.  However, since winning the 2014 midterm elections, they have taken this irrational fear to a new level.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal even calls it post-election stress syndrome.

During the ‘90s, with a popular president in the White House and a soaring economy, Republicans had more courage to challenge a sitting Democrat president than the current generation of GOPers – even though this president is extremely radical, reckless, lawless, and unpopular.  Back in 1995, Republicans were willing to battle the president on budget bills over policy disagreements – with the deficit a fraction of what it is today.  Their efforts resulted in welfare reform.  Now Republicans are too scared to fight Obama on anything, even on issues where he has exhibited lawless or dangerous behavior, such as amnesty, Obamacare, and Iran.

Amazingly they fail to see, as evidenced by the midterm elections, that the country views this president as anything but mainstream or reasonable in a way that would complicate political brinkmanship against him. According to a new Huffington Post/YouGov poll, less than half of respondents said that Obama loves America.  A plurality of voters across a number of demographics in the cross-tabs of the poll, in fact, said that Obama does not love America.  We are not exactly dealing with a popularity juggernaut here.

The common refrain from Republicans is “we will get blamed.”  And they make sure to shout this bromide from the hilltops for all to hear.

Whereas conservatives view leverage points, such as budget bills, debt ceilings, and the impending Supreme Court case on Obamacare subsidies, as opportunities to be embraced; GOP leadership views them as the plague to be avoided.  Yet, worse than avoiding the opportunity to score a touchdown, they preemptively convert those prospects of advancing conservatism into scoring points for the other side.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the GOP’s alacritous public clamor to support Obamacare subsidies in the event that the Supreme Court strikes them down in the 34 states that declined to set up health care exchanges.  With the Supreme Court slated to hear oral arguments tomorrow in the King v Burwell case, conservatives are excited about the prospect of a second chance to use the court to strike a death knell to Obamacare.  Unfortunately, that is not what will happen if the court strikes down the subsidies.

In a sane world, Republicans would take the opportunity of the potential SCOTUS decision to pin the tail of blame for crushing health care and health insurance costs on the Democrat donkey.  If SCOTUS pulls the plug on the Obamacare morphine (the subsidies), everyone would immediately feel the pain of the Obamacare mandates, regulations and interventions that have doubled and tripled premiums for most Americans.  And unlike most other issues, Obamacare is exclusively associated with Democrats.  We would harness that anger against Obamacare to ensure that any Congressional “fix” granting a temporary continuation of the subsidies is paired with a bill repealing the price-hiking regulations on insurance plans.  The messaging for Republicans is quite simple: stop administering the pain (mandates) and we won’t need to administer the morphine (subsidies).

This is not hard to understand. Based on the past few elections, in which Obamacare has been the golden goose for Republican candidates, the American people clearly understand who is to blame for the rising premiums, loss of coverage, and loss of family doctors.

Instead, Republicans have spent the past few months preemptively and unilaterally portending an apocalypse when people lose their subsidies.  What’s worse, they are publicly taking on the responsibility for “fixing” it and assuming full culpability for any fallout.  To that end, they are making it clear that Republicans must put their stamp of approval on a bill continuing the Obamacare subsidies or replacing them with massive refundable tax credits, thereby enshrining permanent dependency – all with the blessing of the “more conservative” party.

As previously mentioned, most replacement plans fail to pair the subsidies against eliminating the underlying problems – the scope of mandates and regulations of Obamacare.  But more importantly, even if Republicans insert some good provisions into their plan, all Obama has to do is just wait them out and they will eventually capitulate. They have created yet another cliff and have emphatically expressed their culpability and ensuing responsibility to pass a bill.  Perforce, they will turn the King v Burwell decision into a Republican acquiescence to most of the critical elements in Obamacare.

We will see the same dynamic unfold with a bunch of other deadlines – be it the debt ceiling, highway bill, or reauthorization of Ex-Im Bank.  Republicans will agree to the premise of doom in absence of passing a bill and will passionately project the blame on themselves.  Then they will propose a liberal bill, albeit with a few good provisions to get conservatives to support the package. But those shiny object reforms are worthless because Republicans have already sent the message to Obama loud and clear that they will blink first.  They will never cross a political deadline and will always accept the blame.

The question voters must ask is if Republicans are scared to make a move for fear of reprisal why do they step onto the field in the first place?