Friday, July 26, 2013

Reason #298: Getting Caught Trying

Since taking control in 2010, Republicans in the House of Representatives, famously, have so far attempted to repeal Obamacare thirty-seven times. With your indulgence, I will now, briefly, defend that practice.

Not repealing Obamacare, specifically, mind you--but the act of loading up your car, announcing your imminent vacation, then repeatedly, deliberately, and for a number of years driving straight into a brick wall.

Obama gave a big economic speech the other day, essentially daring the Republicans to come after him on the debt ceiling this fall. It had all the attitude and bombast and, frankly, common sense of most of his speeches, but even his supporters have to admit, we've heard it all before. Obama has been touting the economic benefits of infrastructure spending, health care reform, and so on since before he was even in office--and while his people would gladly point to that as a sign of consistency, there's clearly a certain segment of the population that just isn't on board for that no matter how many times you ask.

That's why it's in the Republicans' interest to repeal Obamacare dozens of time when they know perfectly well it's not going anywhere: it gives them something to wave in front of their base as a sign that they're fighting the good fight. When gridlock is this institutionally assured, both parties really only have two options--catatonia, or fruitless exertion. It may not be terribly empowering, but the exertion scenario still has its benefits; it keeps the base active, keeps the legislative muscles intact, and who knows--once in a while you may even sneak something through.

The title of this post is a phrase that gets used now and then in political circles, though I haven't been able to determine its origin. What it means, basically, is that voters would rather see a politician fail doing what they believe in--even, on some level, if it's antithetical to what said voters want--than see them as doing nothing whatsoever. It's a lesson the Republicans seem to have learned long ago, and have been demonstrating throughout their 30-month reign in the House. You could say that Senate Democrats at least demonstrated their own understanding of this last month in passing their doomed immigration-reform bill (though Marco Rubio's motives are harder to work out in this context), so hopefully this week is a sign that Obama is starting to figure it out as well.

Further Reading

House to vote, yet again, on repealing Obamacare

Obama Needs to Get ’Caught Trying’ on Job Creation: Ron Klain

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