Conservatives can have a good year -- if they want to

Irony of ironies, the truth is that Obamacare is far more likely to be delayed by the White House than by the Tea Party — or, for that matter, by anybody in the conservative movement. In an in-depth piece that delves into the “third world experience” offered by the online exchanges, the New York Times confirmed that “the growing national outcry has deeply embarrassed the White House.” This is a president who, to put it rather mildly, does not do well with being laughed at and who has a nasty habit of attempting to remove anything that he can from the immediate judgment of the electorate. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the man who has so steadfastly rebuffed Republican attempts to delay his beloved law will be forced by events and pride to add another delay of his own. Remember: For all the talk of “nullification” and “sedition,” Obama is the only political actor in Washington who has thus far managed to effect any changes to the law whatsoever.

Should it happen, a unilateral delay might make the Republicans’ behavior during the debt-ceiling debate look a touch more reasonable in hindsight, distilling the disorganization, desperation, and inconsistency of their inchoate push into one politically beneficial memory: “They really wanted to stop this, huh?” The inevitable election-season commercials painting Republicans as extremists prepared to shut down the government would be easily rebuffed, too, allowing those accused of resorting to desperate tactics to respond, “You’re damn right we did. Do you remember the disaster? Have you seen your premiums?” Extremis malis, extrema remedia, and all that.

Journalists and political commentators are correctly observing that, in all likelihood, Americans will be treated to another budget fight early next year. This time, if they are sensible, Republicans will be presented with a solid opportunity to block the president’s fiscal agenda — and to do so using his own tactics. All told, Democrats hate sequestration, and they remain desperate to raise its spending caps. Republicans, on the other hand, are generally much less worried about the law, and the tea-party contingent is the least bothered of all. This means that maintaining the status quo is considerably more appealing to conservatives than it is to progressives.

It also means that, early next year, the House can simply pass a “clean” debt-ceiling raise and a “clean” continuing resolution and then go on vacation — perhaps after raising a middle finger to Harry Reid on the way out of D.C.