The Tea Party Conservative Strategy for 2011

new years resolutionsNext week starts the new Congress, and with it the Tea Party conservatives. What’s their strategy? What will they rally around?

They’ll grouse endlessly about government spending but I don’t think they’ll use any particular spending bill to mobilize and energize their grass roots. The big bucks are in Social Security, Medicare, and defense, which are too popular. And their support for a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts will make a mockery of any argument about taming the deficit.

Nor will they focus on the debt ceiling. Their opposition to raising it will generate a one-day story but won’t rally the troops or register with the public. Most Americans aren’t particularly interested in the debt ceiling, don’t know what it means, and don’t feel affected by it.

Instead, I expect their rallying cry will be about the mandatory purchase of health care built into the new healthcare law. The mandate is the least popular, and least understood, aspect of that law. Yet it’s the lynchpin. Without it, much of the rest of the law falls apart: It’s impossible to cover all high-risk Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions, unless those at far lower risk are required to buy insurance.

Knowing they don’t stand a chance of getting a direct repeal of the mandate (even if they could get a majority in the House for it, they won’t summon 60 votes in the Senate, and have no possibility of overriding a presidential veto), they’ll try to strip the federal budget appropriation of money needed to put the mandate into effect. This could lead to a standoff with the White House over government funding in general, and a possible government shutdown.

Robert ReichMy betting is Tea Party conservatives wouldn’t mind a government shutdown over the healthcare mandate. Unlike Bill Clinton’s showdown with Newt Gingrich, which hurt the conservative cause, Tea Partiers believe this one could be helpful. In their view, it would enable them to stand on principle, dramatize their argument that the Obama administration overstepped with healthcare, and generate a particular event around which they can summon the energy and enthusiasm of their ground troops — all with an eye on mobilizing for the 2012 general election.

Advice to Obama White House: Get ready.

Robert Reich

Republished with permission from Robert Reich’s Blog.


  1. Joe Weinstein says

    To be sure, the Dems were stupid for passing Obamacare in the constitutionally dubious form where the state penalizes people for not paying private parties (in this case for med insurance). A constitutional and fiscally equivalent version would have been an across-the-board income tax increase plus an income tax credit (up to a given limit) for med insurance payments.

    However, it really doesn’t matter what the Tea Party or other Gop elements will use as an excuse to threaten to, and then actually to, stop funding the government. Clinton had the balls to blame and then successfully fight the Gops for such obstruction and irresponsibility, but all observations to date indicate to the Gops – and everyone else – that Obama doesn’t have the balls. Precisely because he consistently acts castrated, the Gops will be further emboldened to demand and insist on everything they want, as the price for not shutting down government. Likely Obama will simply keep cooing to them to be nice, just as he keeps cooing to Ahmadinejad and Kim and Bashir to be nice as they pursue their repressions, genocides and mass starvations.

  2. Mad Jayhawk says

    Thank God for the Tea Party. Without them we wouldn’t have any accountability in Washington. This country is bankrupt and both parties act like it is great financial shape. If the voters hadn’t thrown the Democrats out of Congress, we would have had Stimulus III, IV and V and who knows what else. Now the TP has to watch both parties to make sure that they have gotten the message: no new spending and cut back on the size of government. That is what the TP will do despite Mr Reich’s anti-tea party predictions. Disclaimer: I am not a TP member but attend TP meetings. Try it, you’ll like it, if you care about your government and this country. I bet Mr Reich has never been to a TP meeting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *