Making sense of the defund/shutdown strategy

From the moment I clicked on C-SPAN to watch Senator Ted Cruz’s quasi-filibuster, I’ve been trying to make sense of the defund Obamacare/government shutdown effort. It didn’t take a rocket scientist, or a political scientist, to know it wouldn’t work. But it might just be the first of many skirmishes that will save the country. After all, conservatives have two powerful allies on their side.

When Senator Cruz began his 21-hour talking marathon, I immediately wondered how he thought it possible that the U.S. Senate, controlled by Democrats, would give up on Obamacare and why he thought President Obama would give up on his signature accomplishment, national healthcare – a progressive dream for a century. I share the sentiment of investor Stanley Druckenmiller, who told the Wall Street Journal, “I thought tying Obamacare to the debt ceiling was nutty.”

The idea was quarterbacked by former Cruz colleague, Jim DeMint, who surprisingly resigned from the U.S. Senate last December to run the Heritage Foundation and link up with its political arm, Heritage Action for America. While Congress vacationed last summer, DeMint and Cruz fertilized the grassroots by participating in Heritage Action’s nine-city Defund Obamacare tour. Energized by large crowds, Cruz was ready to make his charge against the economy-killing healthcare program when Congress went back to work in the fall. But Cruz and his intrepid Republican platoon couldn’t overcome simple math: two is greater than one. A firm (Democrat) White House aligned with an unyielding (Democrat) Senate beats the (Republican) House of Representatives. After a few weeks of fighting, the insurgency went down in flames.

Or did it? Well, yes it did but it will kindle future fires of rebellion. Something new and big and powerful is going on in the political world. Conservative think-tank leaders around the country aren’t content just to create intellectual ideas to promote the principles of freedom any longer. They’re getting into the fight to make sure their ideas win in the political arena. They’ve lost their patience because our $17-trillion federal deficit, our $200 trillion of unfunded federal liabilities, and our out-of-control Federal Reserve money printing machine could send our country into the economic abyss at any moment. These figures don’t even count our massive state and local government liabilities. So, yes, our country is in big trouble and we need leadership to save it.

From an economic perspective, rather than a political perspective, linking the Defund Obamacare effort to a deal to fund the federal government wasn’t nutty; it made a lot of sense for the long run because Obamacare will create massive economic pain. Sadly, politics and elections are more important to politicians than the state of the American economy. Their aim is to get re-elected. And DeMint, Heritage Action, FreedomWorks and the dozens of other think tanks-turned-political-machines know it. This is certain – the politicians who vote recklessly will be dealing with DeMint and Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks and others in a thousand skirmishes in their backyards where they can’t run for cover under the Capitol dome.

DeMint, Heritage Action, Cruz and the Republican Party are bruised for now. But, they’ll be back to battle again. They’re learning how to fight this adversary, which includes big spenders in both parties. Heritage Action President Michael Needham, the 31 year-old brainchild of Defund Obamacare told the Wall Street Journal, “There is nothing in my mission statement that says anything about the Republican Party. Our mission is to advance the conservative agenda. We are nonpartisan and we really mean it.”

I anticipate that the older DeMint and young Needham will  devise winning Fabian strategies, match their strengths against the opposition’s weaknesses, pester them in politically vulnerable districts, raise lots of money, improve their messaging, and link up with state-based think tanks with political arms. Finally and importantly, DeMint and the gang have two powerful allies on their side – economic truth and economic reality.

Status quo Washington violates the laws of sound economics and is destroying the United States of America as we’ve known it. Inevitably, the economy will continue to decline and Obamacare will accelerate the downward spiral. As a result, voters will increasingly look for leadership with answers that reflect economic truth and reality.

The electorate will remember Ted Cruz’s filibuster. For now, the battling conservatives may look bruised and ugly, but they’ll keep fighting and they’ll make incremental progress until they get chances to win big victories. Don’t count them out. They’re learning to fight big spenders on both sides of the aisle and economic truth and reality are on their side.