With shutdown fever gripping the Republican party and the commentariat, it’s easy to argue the Republicans have clearly gone insane. Their tactics – from repeatedly holding votes to repeal the ACA to threatening to shutdown the government to threatening to crash the world economy by refusing to raise the debt limit – are self destructive behaviors of a party gone crazy. I disagree. Republicans have not gone crazy. From the conservative perspective, America is careening wildly toward destruction – worse it’s self-destruction in the form of “creeping socialism” symbolized by the Affordable Care Act. Republicans are pursuing tactics that can be understood simply as “Desperate times require desperate measures.”
Conservative critiques of the ACA portray it as a government takeover of health care that will lead to catastrophic outcomes – brutal rationing of care and prescription medications, senior citizens denied health care, a nameless faceless board in DC dictating to doctors what treatment their patients can receive (one scenario actually included doctors being issued government controlled iPads that would transmit treatment instructions from DC to the doctors – my boss made company management attend a speech by the ill informed MD claiming this outcome). If you live in Teabagistan, you’ve heard these stories and you’ve never heard them debunked. You and your friends have linked and shared atrocity tales about the outcomes of socialized medicine in other countries (a favorite meme is that Canadians are all frantic to come the US for health care because they’re being denied life saving treatment in Canada – usually some experimental treatment). Again, those stories have been debunked but you’ve never heard it because in Teabagistan, nobody hears the debunking and if they do, they dismiss it as a liberal conspiracy. For the teabaggers, the ACA is not just a bad policy, it is an existential threat to America. If it is allowed to go into full effect, the ACA will destroy America.
Believing we face such dire circumstances, the teaparty contingent in Congress (driven by their base which believes we face such circumstances), is fully prepared to do anything to “save” America. They were sure the Supreme Court would strike down the ACA. They were certain they could recapture the Senate and White House in 2012. Those things didn’t happen. Legitimate, normal avenues of preventing the ACA from taking effect, normal avenues for repealing it were closed. Repeated House votes to repeal it haven’t worked (despite the obvious problem with those repeated votes, conservative voters read articles saying “House votes to Repeal Obamacare” and then read that it’s still going into effect and conclude some devious force must be at work to frustrate an outcome they believe should be happening). So conservatives are left with drastic measures. If you genuinely believe the ACA is an America destroying bill, a government shutdown and all the attendant disruption is a small price to pay to “save” America. It doesn’t hurt that many teabaggers genuinely believe the government is irrelevant on a daily basis anyway.
Better to suffer through what conservatives believe will be short term discomfort than allow the ACA catastrophe to occur.