How Ted Cruz, FreedomWorks, and Heritage Action lost the government shutdown

Conservatives are rightly upset about how little was achieved in the recent government shutdown. Proponents promised that if the government was shut down for any length of time, a grassroots army from the heartland would rise up and demand full defunding of Obamacare. Democrats in Washington, squirming at both the pressure from without and the cut off funding from within, would cave, and President Obama would reluctantly gut his namesake legislative achievement. Those who didn’t want to go along with this plan were called RINO-cocktail party-Potomac fever-squishes over what amounted to a tactical disagreement. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and staff even used terms like “surrender caucus” and “Neville Chamberlains.”

Much like the Vietnam War, things didn’t go quite as planned for the self-appointed “best and the brightest.”

According to all the polling done during the shutdown, two trends became abundantly clear: first, the country blamed the Republicans for the shutdown, not the Democrats—so much for pressure on the opposition.  Second, and even worse, Obamacare actually grew in popularity the longer the shutdown went on.  This despite the fact that the shutdown coincided in time with the disastrous rollout of Obamacare’s federal health exchange website.

To review, the precise opposite thing happened from what defund/shutdown proponents said would happen. The country did not rise up against the Democrats, but against the Republicans. The country did not clamor for the end of Obamacare, but rather moved toward it despite its obvious flaws. All this served to unite Democrats — many of whom were previously inclined to talk about addressing Obamacare — behind a no-yield, protect-Obamacare negotiating stance.

The Congressional Republican leadership was then left with the same choice all quagmire losers face — keep bleeding, or find a way to get to peace with honor. The latter was what we ended up with in the deal that opened the government until January 15, 2014 and extended the debt ceiling until at least February 7, 2014. The sequester was thankfully spared.

Objectively speaking, much more could have been extracted. To extend the debt limit for what will likely amount to half a year is a huge concession. It’s a retreat from the “Boehner rule,” which would have demanded spending cuts of the same size as the debt ceiling increase. At the very least, we should have gotten something of note.