Texas Senator Ted Cruz is among the group of congressional Republicans pushing for the overturn of the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
What the hell is going on? What could House Republicans possibly be thinking?
You’re not the only one asking. On Facebook, I read many questions: Where’s the logic? Do House Republicans see a government shutdown as but a small price to pay for a chance to enter a sweepstakes for the biggest possible prize, the actual repeal of Obamacare? What’s the calculation—that stodgy Republican Senators finally come to their senses and vote for repeal after a government showdown? Do they believe Obama will fold, and actually agree to sign a bill defunding his signature initiative? That tough old Harry Reid will blink? And what’s up with the “you delay Obamacare for one year, we agree to let the government run for another ten weeks and won’t let the nation default” compromise? Do they actually think that proposal is for real? Who are these people?
Come back with me to 1964. Barry Goldwater has won enough delegates for a first-ballot nomination victory at the Republican National Convention. But according to the Gallup Poll, by a margin of 55 to 34 percent, Republican voters—Republican voters; the percentage of all voters would have been much, much higher—preferred his opponent for the nomination, William Warren Scranton. What the hell was going on? What were the people who thought Goldwater could beat Lyndon Johnson thinking? Well, as I wrote in Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, Phyllis Schlafly was thinking this: that Gallup just asked “a lot of questions of a very few people” in order to “come up with answers that pleased the New York kingmakers.” Delegates for Goldwater, meanwhile, pressed to see reason and nominate a candidate who could actually win, wrote telegrams of reassurance to Goldwater: will vote for you if my vote alone is the only vote you obtain… i am prepared to stand by you as resolutely as did general thomas for the union at chicamauga… i have been, and will be, subject to pressures of tremendous force. however, i will be able to stand up to this and come out of the convention with a clear conscience to face our god and our people. Young Republicans in Wisconsin wrote to delegates from their state: “Vote our wishes in San Francisco or continue westward.”
And then, two months later, in September, when all the polls predicted exactly what ended up happening—Goldwater losing in a landslide—William F. Buckley addressed a convention of Young Americans for Freedom, and shocked them. He spoke, in his bizarrely orotund way, of the Goldwater campaign: “A great rainfall has deluged a thirsty earth, but before we had time to properly prepare for it. I speak, of course, about the impending defeat of Barry Goldwater.” As I wrote in Before the Storm, “His heresy sucked the air out of the room. The silence was broken by the sound of a single woman sobbing.”