Tom Coburn: Let's face it, if the government shuts down, Republicans will "fold like hotcakes"

Is he right? I’d guess 95 percent of our readership will say “Of course he’s right! Those RINOs always fold!” But if you believe that, you should have opposed Cruz’s strategy (as Coburn himself did) as an exercise in futility. You can’t count on a group that reliably “folds like hotcakes” at fiscal deadlines to defund ObamaCare by standing fast during a shutdown for weeks or months on end, no matter how intense the political heat might get. You can bring grassroots pressure on them to do so, but that pressure won’t reach purple-staters like Mark Kirk and Susan Collins. Even if it did, the longer the shutdown lasted, the greater the risk of a backlash there’d be from the general public; at some point, the fear of losing a general election by standing firm would overtake the fear of losing a primary by caving.

Ironically, this is why it’s so easy for so many to dismiss Cruz’s efforts as self-interested grandstanding. “We’re going to force Republicans to show some spine!” he cries. To which anyone who’s watched Republicans on the Hill before replies: Are you joking, dude?

The Oklahoma Republican said that after seven or eight days of shutdown the Republicans will begin to feel the heat from their constituents over lack of services back home, like pay for members of the military. To that end, Coburn explained that Republicans will not keep the government shuttered in order to defund Obamacare.

“The only time you shut down the government is when you shut it down and refuse to open it until you accomplish what you want. But we’ll fold like hotcakes,” Coburn told reporters. “You do not take a hostage you are not going to for sure shoot. And we will not for sure shoot this hostage.”…

“When the pressure comes, the conflict for a politician is you want to get reelected,” Coburn said. “Shutting down the government doesn’t work.”

Not every Republican would fold but not every Republican would need to. Reid would need just six in the Senate to beat a filibuster; Pelosi would need 30 or so in the House. (Once she had 218, she could, I believe, file a discharge petition to force Boehner to bring a clean CR to the floor even if he didn’t want to.) You’d need a Republican caucus full of Ted Cruzes and Mike Lees to really make a shutdown stick, and even then it might not. Cruz, having been elected in one of the reddest states in the union on the backs of a grassroots conservative swell, could stand firm on a shutdown after seven or eight days with few repercussions; if he came from Illinois like Kirk or Maine like Collins and tried that, though, he’d be gambling with his political life. Would even a stalwart tea partier who managed to get elected in a purple state hold out for weeks during a shutdown?

It’s precisely because the base fears/expects that Republicans will “fold like hotcakes” that sometimes I get the sense that the threat of a shutdown isn’t merely leverage to them. That’s how Cruz and Lee have been selling it — no one wants a shutdown, they insist, but it’s one of the few cards we can play that might get Democrats to make concessions on ObamaCare. Some righties on Twitter, though, seem to really want the shutdown to happen because they want proof that the GOP will sacrifice some political capital for its principles. It’s not merely leverage. It’s a goal (or a consolation prize, at least) in its own right. Am I right in sensing that or wrong? If I’m right, then suddenly there are a lot of people involved in this that are hoping for a shutdown to happen. The base wants to see it because they want to know there’s a spine in the Republican Party after all; Democrats want to see it because they think it’ll help them politically; even some Beltway Republicans might want to see it because it’s the only way to prove to tea partiers in Congress and elsewhere that shutdowns will damage the party electorally. With that many people invested in this happening, maybe it really is in the cards this time. No wonder CNN’s reporting that the House appears to have no plan right now to stop it.

And now, a word from Mitt Romney.

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Jazz Shaw 8:31 AM on December 04, 2022