While normal human beings are spending sunny August days at the beach or the lake or on the road with the kids, tea party activists are crowding into town hall meetings with members of Congress and screeching at the top of their lungs about the imagined evils of Obamacare.
The aim of all this right-wing activism is to get Congress to defund the comprehensive healthcare law that was passed back in the bygone days when Democrats controlled the House and Senate and President Obama had dreams of actually getting something done in his first term. Now, though he has won a second term in office, Obama is blocked on every front by the GOP-controlled House and the filibuster-addicted Senate Republicans.
After dozens of fruitless votes to repeal Obamacare, militant conservatives in Congress hope to bleed the beast to death by removing funding in the budget process. To help in this effort, they are enlisting their tea party troops to help create the illusion of a national uprising against expansion of healthcare to all the people who cannot afford it. In a statement last week, freshman GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said, “If, in the next 60 days, hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans stand up and demand their elected officials do the right thing, that will change this public policy debate.”
Republicans, conservative lobbying groups and tea party organizers are doing their best to put together one-sided gatherings in which only condemnations of the healthcare law are heard. Back in 2010, that tactic worked pretty well and facilitated the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives in the fall election. At that time, Democratic lawmakers ran away from what they had achieved in passing the Affordable Care Act, leaving the right wing free to set the debate agenda.
This time, the situation may be different. Americans have had time to live with the law and discover that no one is sending Granny to a death camp, and liberals have not been cowering in the corner. Democratic Party activists are putting together a counteroffensive directed by two groups, Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care. It would be a surprise if they were able to summon up a force equal to the frenzied, angry tea party horde, but at least the right wing propaganda will not go unanswered.
What this means is that the rhetoric and political rancor will be getting as hot as a blistering summer day. When it subsides, both sides will claim a public mandate (while most of the public will have stayed focused on vacations and back-to-school sales). Having trumped up a quasi-revolt against Obamacare, Republicans will return to Washington and gum up negotiations over the federal budget with their defunding demand. Democrats will resist. Obama will promise a veto. And autumn will return with the government as dysfunctional as ever.