The Hill reported this morning on a fascinating development in the internal Republican war over the strategy to threaten a government shutdown if Democrats won’t agree to “defund” Obamacare:
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are spearheading the effort to build a “grassroots army” to influence GOP leadership after entreaties to their colleagues fell short…
Supporters of the push are taking their message directly to the Republican base this month. They are promoting an online petition, http://www.dontfundobamacare.com, that has already gathered 217,578 signatures.
Cruz is flying to the presidential battleground state of Iowa at the end of the week to meet with activists and tout the importance of using every tool available to fight the implementation of ObamaCare.
Hmm, somehow I suspect that flooding McConnell’s office with emails and phone calls screaming for his head might violate the Senate’s legendary air of collegiality. Cruz and Rubio’s strategy is almost Maoist in approach: organize the countryside, undermine and discredit the Establishment, then take the power centers as central authority crumbles. Their implied threat, of course, is that resistance will earn their Republican colleagues a primary challenge from their Right flank, with the new grassroots army providing the boots on the ground in states and House districts across the country.
Some of us wondered if something similar might happen on the Left once Obama won: would he be able to use his volunteer army to pressure Congress, for better or worse? Turns out, not so much: OFA was a non-factor in the health care battle, and though its post-2012 incarnation is trying to change that, it still hasn’t demonstrated the ability to shift votes on the Hill.
Of course, both Cruz and Rubio would like to live in the White House, and it’s hard to imagine that they haven’t considered the long-term usefulness of building a list of people rabidly opposed to Obama’s central legislative achievement (on that front, I signed the petition as “Bob Dobbs” and immediately landed on a page asking me to donate to the “Senate Conservatives Fund”). Quick question: did Cruz and Rubio sign a pre-nup agreement specifying who gets to keep the email addresses if they both run for president?
I can’t remember seeing anything quite like this before, that’s for sure. Republican leaders happily used red-meat conservative messaging to rile up the faithful for decades, and now it’s biting them in the butt: their grassroots supporters want what they want, they want it now, and they know how to be heard — particularly with people like Cruz and Rubio willing to put them to work for the Cause. Caught in a conservative revolt, McConnell and company don’t seem to have many palatable options…unless they really think that shutting down the federal government over a meaningless gesture is truly a winning strategy. Good luck with that.