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Now that Republicans have moved, they can't, and shouldn't, give up on defunding ObamaCare.
Let us leave aside other scenarios as being now obsolete. In the old westerns, once you draw your six-shooter, reholstering is of no use. Same here.
They would be like Obama and his red line in Syria. They have drawn a red line; to go back is to look feckless and weak. And, worse, ridiculous.
Whether the time is right, etc., is irrelevant. Folding would give them no credit; their only recourse is to win.
And victory is closer than ever.
Here's the key thing: the Oct. 1 deadline for doing a federal budget is also, of course, a key day for ObamaCare to get under way.
By that day, it will be obvious that ObamaCare won't work. I leave aside questions of what it will do to health care and the nation's economy: it simply won't function.
North Carolina knows. Nearly a decade ago, the state began revamping its Medicaid billing system. That's one part of one state's health system, which already exists. The project was just finished, a decade and millions in overruns later. And it still isn't running well.
Forget everything else: ObamaCare just isn't going to function in the most basic way.
A good wrap-up of the ills is found in this blog post from Walter Russell Mead. These are just the first shocks. Like penguins waiting to see who will be the first of them to plunge into the water, corporations do not want to be first in line. They want others to jump in first.
So expect a surge of news stories about companies cutting health benefits to workers and retirees, or just cutting workers, making full-time workers part-timers, and limiting part-timers' hours.
It's been happening all year, but the pace will step up. My wife just got a notice from the company she works for that, as a part-timer, she will no longer be eligible for the main portion of her employer's health care plan. Many thousands of others have gotten these notices; I predict that many thousands of such notices from other companies have been printed and are in the mail or will go out in the next few weeks.
When that happens, people are going to be furious and confused. ObamaCare has been unpopular, but you ain't seen nothing yet. Many don't understand it, and their vital first impressions will be that it's a raw deal for them.
I am not saying that large parts of the public won't vent their spleen on the Republicans. It's going to be ugly. Guess what: Fights are ugly. If you're in one, you'll take some hits.
But Republicans are already in one. If they can hang on, they'll be the champions of all the people who are going to get screwed by ObamaCare and by Oct. 1 will realize it.
Meanwhile, the president be-clowned himself with Syria. The real kicker: Putin mocking Obama and America in the New York Times. Americans can put up with a lot. They won't put up with that. His credibility is shot.
One caveat: Republicans must have an alternative they can sell to the voters.
Yes, they have at least one plan. I won't judge its merits. I will doubt that, so far, it can be sold to the public.
I listened to a congressman explain it on my car's radio as I drove home. Now, with all due modesty, I work for a policy think tank, and I don't think I'm too dumb, but I just didn't get what the plan would do and why.
Don't tell me that complex issues can't be boiled down to a couple of sound bits that a commuter can understand while driving home. If they can't, they won't persuade the public.
The GOP has to have an alternative that sounds plausible to someone listening on a car radio or catching a bit of a newscast or seeing a news item on the internet. They will need that, because ObamaCare is (as intended?) destroying the health care system. If Republicans went to even sideline it for now, they need an alternative, that will at least get people through November 2014.
Defunding and delaying isn't repeal. But it would be fair to set the table for the next elections. Let the people see what Obamacare is, and what Republicans have to offer. Then let them decide.
But Republicans have to stand firm. They can't retreat. As Cortez burned his ships to encourage his conquistadores, Republicans can't go back. They have to go forward.
And now they have a good chance of winning, as Americans find out what ObamaCare is really like.
And if Republicans leave us to that fate, well, what would that say about the party?