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August 12, 2013 12:53 PM Stop Me Before I Kill Government Again

By Ed Kilgore

Happy as I am that a bipartisan convergence on sentencing reform just possibly could be in the works, it can’t obscure the more immediate spectacle of Republicans simultaneously trying to identify with and tamp down the “base’s” desire for a government shutdown (or debt default) over “defunding Obamacare.” Greg Sargent nicely diagnoses the malady after watching Reince Priebus tie himself into knots on a Sunday show:

After CNN’s Candy Crowley pointed out some Republicans are challenging the conservative demand for a government shutdown confrontation to force the defunding of Obamacare, Priebus actually responded:
“I think all Republicans are unified on one thing and that is defunding, delaying, getting rid of, eliminating Obamacare. So we have total unanimity on that issue and the question is what are the tactics? And you know, even if you take the position of a Ted Cruz or Mike Lee, basically what they’re saying is we actually are funding 100 percent of the government except for that small percentage of nondiscretionary — excuse me, discretionary funding the Obamacare.
“So Mr. President, if you want to shut the government down because you want to continue to fund this monstrosity that you’ve already admit is half broken, then go ahead. I mean the fact that it’s on the Republican Party I just think is spin from the Democratic Party that you ought not be adopting. I don’t know why you’re adopting that spin….”
[I]t’s not surprising that Republican officials have effortlessly internalized the framing of the coming Obamacare/government shutdown Priebus adopts above. Thanks partly to the GOP leadership’s willingness to lavish years of care and feeding on the base’s preoccupation with Obamacare repeal, large swaths of the party’s base appear to remain convinced that the law is entirely illegitimate and that they need not accept that the law is here to stay. It’s easy to get from here to the conclusion that Obama will be to blame for any catastrophic consequences that flow from the continued showdown over Obamacare; after all, this whole situation was created by Obama’s initial exercise of tyranny (Dems rammed the law through!!!) and is now being perpetuated by his continued tyrannical resistance to undoing it in the face of the popular will.

I’m guessing the next act for “adult Republicans” like Priebus will be to oppose a government shutdown confrontation on grounds that they are saving the country from Obama’s reckless behavior. The truth is that they would be acting to save their own party from the same kind of political disaster the GOP incurred with the same behavior in 1995.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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