With the House Republicans having voted dozens of times to repeal Obamacare (a.k.a. The Affordable Care Act), only to have each of those proposals die upon arrival in the Senate, Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (Florida), and Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) are making a new push to simply defund the program, thus killing it in every sense that matters.
There is some reason to believe that Republicans might have more luck with this approach, since they are clearly more successful at preventing something from passing than ensuring that it gets passed. However, one Republican isn’t so sure that this strategy can achieve the desired result.
Rep. Tom Cole appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program yesterday morning, a show which you probably shouldn’t watch if you enjoy the occasional Big Gulp. (Co-host Mika Brezezinski is currently on a crusade to rid our country of such dietary filth.) He rejected Sen. Cruz’s claim that there is a “surrender caucus” within the Republican Party that is standing in the way of defunding Obamacare.
Cole indicated that trying to rid the country of Obamacare in one fell swoop was just not practical for a Republican minority, and that a different approach was necessary. “This is much more a program you take care of with a thousand cuts, and by the way, winning some elections would help too.” He added, “If we had a President Romney and we had [a] majority in the Senate…we could maybe get something done.”
In one sense, this gets back to the classic struggle between the desire for ideological purity and the practical need to win elections in order to get anything done. The deep rift in the Republican Party at the moment can be largely attributed to this problem.
Rep. Cole also picked up on a Civil War analogy to help make his point. When Joe Scarborough said that the defunding push had been called the political equivalent of Pickett’s Charge, Cole countered that, “Pickett had a better chance.”
For those who are not familiar with this famous part of the Battle of Gettysburg, the analogy essentially means that attempting a frontal attack with an overmatched force is unlikely to produce a happy outcome. In fact, Maj. Gen. George Pickett (after whom the charge is named) was not the one who came up with the idea to charge the Union line, and he bristled in later years when asked why it had failed. He reportedly replied, “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”
Yes, the Republicans may be wiser at this point to go for something other than a frontal assault. Since we’re using analogies from American military history, I would say that every war we’ve ever fought in suggests that when our enemy is able to fight on their own soil using hit-and-run guerrilla tactics, they have the best chance of success against our superior fire power.
When the Republicans have tried this tactic against the Obama administration, hitting him selectively on issues that favor conservatives and allow the media to do some of their fighting for them, they have been most successful. Maybe it’s time for conservatives to take a lesson from Pickett and go for what has the highest chance of victory rather than what seems the most heroic.