COMMENTARY |The Soviet Union’s Nikita Khrushchev thought that brinksmanship was an excellent opportunity to flex his muscles. He thought that placing offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba would get Americans to pull their own Jupiter Missiles out of Italy and Turkey. Perhaps the Russians would accomplish their dream of getting President John F. Kennedy to pull out of West Berlin.
Of course, that didn’t happen. Khrushchev never recovered from that disastrous gamble. Shortly thereafter, he lost his power position as Community Party Theoretician Mikhail Suslov dumped him from office for his reckless move. The loser of the Cuban Missile Crisis never held a position of power again.
Republicans insist that their own game of brinksmanship with the Democrats is also working. But the evidence just doesn’t support it. Poll after poll show the public pointing the finger at Republicans for the government shutdown. When even conservative columnists like Thomas Sowell admit that the GOP will probably get the blame, you know it’s pretty rough.
Democrats have a nine point lead in the generic ballot according to a Quinnipiac University poll. More Democrats are entering once shunned races, like the Montana Senate race and Georgia gubernatorial contest. But that’s not even the worst part of the GOP strategy (as Republicans still have a year to recover). Republicans may have accidently made Obamacarepopular.
Ever since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed, it hasn’t been widely liked. If you go to RealClearPolitics, you’ll find that more people oppose the ACA than supporters with disparity numbers ranging from five points to double-digits. Some of that has been based on ignorance. As former Georgia State Rep. Jeff Brown noted in his recent column, people said they supported ACA vs. Obamacare when interviewed for the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
But it’s hardly an isolated act. Polls routinely ask people about their support for provisions of the ACA without telling people it is part of Obamacare. And with the exception of the individual mandate, the brainchild of the Heritage Foundation, all enjoy the support of a majority of Americans in multiple polls. Most people express their support of Obamacare based upon whether or not they like the President. And Barack Obama has a higher disapproval rating than an approval rating.
But that reckless Khrushchev-like GOP plan to play brinksmanship games by shutting down the government and risking a default has ironically made Obamacare popular. The same Quinnipiac poll showed an overwhelming number of people oppose shutting down the government and possibly having a default just to defund Obamcare. And the ACA’s favorability ratings are within the statistical margin of error with those unfavorable ratings for the first time. That’s a boost of nearly 13 percentage points.
When Georgia Republicans asked me this summer what they thought of shutting down the government to defund Obamacare, I told them it would only end in disaster. “Well what are we supposed to do?” was their response. I said the GOP should holding hearings about Obamacare’s inevitable faulty implementation and struggles to sign up everyone, getting horror stories and holding the administration accountable for glitches, getting more support for a repeal vote even before the 2014 election. But now it’s too late for the party who managed to miraculously make Obamacare cool by tying it to programs people didn’t want to see shut down.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.