Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cruz Control?

In the run-up to the recent government shutdown, Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor to speak out against funding the Affordable Care Act. The speech turned into a 21-hour plus filibuster against the bill. Early on Cruz stated

 All across this country Americans are suffering because of ObamaCare. ObamaCare isn't working. Yet fundamentally there are politicians in this body who are not listening to the people. They are not listening to the concerns of their constituents, they are not listening to the jobs lost or the people forced into part-time work, to the people losing their health insurance, to the people who are struggling.

The Republicans have over and over pointed to the fact that most Americans do not like the Affordable Care Act- a recent the Morning Consult poll showed that 33% of people thought the bill should either be “repealed” or “defunded” whereas 67% thought either “changes should be made to the bill”, “let the law take effect” or make changes to improve the bill.

While polls are not perfect, there are enough to suggest that most do not support the repeal of the law.
Even without looking at the polling data, common sense tells us the American people overwhelmingly want this bill to be implemented. Barack Obama ran on this issue in 2008 and he won the election. The legislative process took almost a year, but passed. Health care was one of the most litigated issues in the 2012 election, and what was the result? Barack Obama winning the election, the Democrats gaining seats in the Senate (with every Senator who voted for the bill and ran for re-election winning re-election) and the Democrats picking up House seats while also receiving one million more votes in Congressional election.

This also brings into question how closely politicians should follow public opinion. Not surprisingly, when public opinion is in favor of their initiative or against the opposing party’s initiative, they cite it as justification for passage.

Regardless, Republicans are largely using public opinion against the health care law as justification for their actions, but the facts just do not support this premise.

In fact, a recent poll conducted by veteran Republican Pollster Bill McInturff suggests differently.

And when you segment the 'Yes' voters into their respective parties, it shows than an overall majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents do not want to defund the ACA if it means shutting down the government ('No' voters + 'Unsure' voters + 'Yes, but not if gov't shuts down' voters > 50% for all three groups).

The only group that supported defunding ACA if it led to a shutdown was the Tea Party.

And this represents a growing trend for American politics, but especially for the Republican Party. As Congressional districts become more segregated between the parties, members of Congress do not have to worry about the general election as much as they need to worry about a primary election. Primaries tend to pull candidates towards the extremes, since those who vote in primaries are usually more extreme than average Republicans or Democrats. General elections tend to pull candidates more towards the center (and hence force the candidate to better represent his constituents).

Thus, when Republicans have to worry more about a primary challenge than a general election, they are more likely to do more extreme things that their base may support that the rest of the party and public may not.

And Ted Cruz seems to understand this better than anyone. All indications show that Ted Cruz will run for President in 2016, as he has made many visits to Iowa and New Hampshire. And one of the best ways he can do that is by leading on this strategy, even if it goes against the will of the American people.

It has worked. According to a recent Public Policy Polling survey, Cruz leads with at 20% amongst potential Presidential nominees. While there is still a very low percentage of Ted Cruz every becoming President, it is a significant point.

In reality, they are not doing the bid of the American people, but the small, ideologically right group of people who vote in Congressional and Presidential primaries.

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