In an October 10, 2013 story, Politico noted that the columnist and television personality Charles Krauthammer continued to criticize Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas for pursuing a strategy to attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Krauthammer, among other establishment Republicans, has suggested the Cruz and his allies were being quixotic by pushing for the defund strategy, that there was no way that the Senate would accept such a move or that the president would sign it. He has also suggested that the government shutdown, which followed, has not redounded to the benefit to Republicans.
Cruz has, in effect, been set up to be the scape goat for any damage that the shutdown drama has caused to the Republican Party going into 2014.
One can suggest that the premise could be tested with a counterfactual. What if the current Lt. Governor of Texas, David Dewhurst, a fine man but a more conventional politician had been elected to the Senate instead of Cruz? How would the Obamacare fight have proceeded then?
Dewhurst, following the conventional wisdom that government shutdowns, would not have pressed the matter of Obamacare. There might have been no tea party insurgency to defund Obamacare. A “clean” continuing resolution would have been passed and the shutdown would have been avoided.
To be sure, the rollout of the Obamacare signup website would still have been a disaster. It would have buttressed the argument that the individual mandate for the affordable health care act should be delayed. There is, however, no evidence that such would have happened, absent a Senator Cruz and a full blown assault on Obamacare. The system would have muddled through, with a lot of people being forced to pay fines even though it was physically impossible to sign up for the health care exchanges. The administration would have continued to promise that the “glitches” would soon be fixed and all will be well.
Fast forward to the 2014 elections. Millions of conservative voters, having concluded that elected Republicans won’t fight against Obamacare, would likely have stayed home, as they did in 2012 when they found Mitt Romney too much of a northeastern moderate for their taste.
The result would have been that not only would the Republicans not have taken the Senate, they might well have lost the House.
However with Cruz and others having fought the good fight and having dragged the rest of the congressional Republicans kicking and screaming, conservative voters see that there is someone looking after their interests.
Cruz once famously suggested that the Senate needed “100 Jesse Helms,” referring to a late arch conservative senator. Conservative voters might well now flock to the polls with the desire for “100 Ted Cruzes.” For one establishment Republicans, that might be a mixed blessing. The GOP may take the Senate now. But they will do so with a group of rambunctious tea party senators like Cruz who will not be prepared to go along to get along.