There are certain ironclad corollaries in U.S. political lore
that are reinforced again and again in the saga of American
politics. One of the most enduring is that notion that timing
often trumps most everything else.
Two months ago, the nation was caught up in a government
shutdown brought on by some Republican members of the
U.S. house and senate seeking to express themselves about
the impending implementation of the new healthcare reform
legislation known as Obamacare. President Obama and
Democratic leaders in the Congress welcomed this exercise
in futility from the opposition because they knew that the
public would blame their opposition for the shutdown, and
turn attention away from the disaster of their “progressive”
handiwork on healthcare reform, the poorly formulated new
The shutdown came and passed. Polls showed that indeed the
public blamed the conservatives for the shutdown.
Then came Obamacare, the reality not the hype and promises.
It is an unmitigated economic, political and public relations
disaster. That we already know. But what are the consequences?
I have said for some time that the big prize for the conservative
party in 2014 was control of the U.S. senate. Control of the the
U.S. house, barring the unforeseen, was not likely at stake because
of the redistricting advantage of the GOP across the country.
Impatience from some conservatives forced the shutdown, hurt
the Republican Party generally, and specifically reversed a
promising trend for the GOP to take back control of the U.S.
senate. But it was not only the shutdown action by some factions
of the conservative party; it was also visible in efforts in various
senate races where incumbent Republicans were up for re-election.
These incumbents, headed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell (Kentucky), but also including Senators Lamar
Alexander (Tennessee), Mike Enzi (Wyoming), Susan Collins
(Maine), Lindsay Graham (South Carolina), and potentially a few
As 2010 and 2012 demonstrated clearly, defeating your own
incumbents, especially with ill-prepared ideologues, is an
invitation, even in so-called “safe” races, for defeat. But, as if
nothing had happened in those cycles, some extreme factions of
the Republican Party continue their “crusade” to purify their
senate caucus. During and immediately after the shutdown, it
appeared that these factions might have some success not only
against GOP incumbents, but also by placing inferior nominees
in races against vulnerable Democrats. This virtually guaranteed
that the GOP would not take control of the senate in 2014.
End shutdown. Begin Obamacare. Suddenly, races that seemed
out of reach for the GOP, in North Carolina, Louisiana, Alaska,
Michigan, Iowa and New Hampshire are back in play. Montana,
South Dakota, and West Virginia continue to look like GOP
pick-ups. Other “safe” Democratic seats could become
competitive as the consequences of Obamacare continue to
Nothing of this sort and magnitude exists in a vacuum, however.
Democrats, like everyone else, want to survive politically, and in
the case of the senate, to maintain their control. Current
conditions of incessant bad news about Obamacare will not
likely be allowed to continue without some actions by the liberal
What might the Democrats do? What can they do?
They could make the problem go away by agreeing to repeal
Obamacare, but the prospects for that are close to zero.
They could attempt to “repair” Obamacare, but that would
require the cooperation of the Republican majority in the
U.S. house. Very unlikely. They could also attempt to delay
implementation, now underway, until after the 2014 elections.
Again, they would need GOP cooperation. But President Obama
has been trying to do some of this via executive order (which is
probably illegal, and which is certain to be challenged in court).
Any unilateral effort by the president to “fix” Obamacare
almost certainly would make matters worse for his party.
With Democratic senate candidates, including incumbents,
challengers and those running for open seats, in virtual panic,
the “progressive” leadership may not be able to control the
senate on this issue. After all, we are speaking about basic
Of course, certain Republicans might want to have another
confrontation over the debt ceiling (coming up in January)
that could lead to another shutdown. That would be an
enormous gift to the Democrats for 2014. Again, this is not
very likely, considering the hard evidence of what happened
only recently when this occurred.
After several years of docility under Pelosi and Reid, there
still are many center-left Democrats in Congress who do
not seem to share the full philosophy of the far left Obama
administration, including Joe Manchin (West Virginia),
Mark Warner (Virginia), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota),
Tom Carper (Delaware), Ron Wyden (Oregon), Mark Pryor
(Arkansas), Mark Begich (Alaska), Angus King (Maine
independent who votes with the Democrats), Bob Casey, Jr.
(Pennsylvania) and others. Facing elimination by the voters,
however, and a lame-duck incumbent president, watch for
many of them begin to speak out not only in opposition to
Obamacare, but also on a variety of energy, education and
foreign policy issues. (Their first real impact might come
in the run-up to the 2016 election.)
There are also those Democrats who still strongly favor
Obamacare, and want to “tough it out” on the issue,
believing voters will come to love the healthcare reform.
President Obama is showing no signs of ay willingness to
abandon this “legacy” of his terms of office. Mrs. Pelosi
and Mr. Reid are saying to their members, in effect, “we
will go down with the ship, and you will go with us.”
The Democrats have been much more self-disciplined
recently on their issues in the Congress than their GOP
opposition have been. Yet there are unmistakeable signs
of this coalition collapsing during the next ten months as
the GOP moves in to surround the wagons of those who do
not give up.
The upcoming battles will take place in the “Old” New
West, as well as in the Midwest, South and East. It is almost
certainly going to be quite a spectacle.
Get your tubs of popcorn now (before they ban them.)
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.