Gail Collins: Frankenstein Goes to Congress:
Our question for today is: Why don’t the Republicans just throw in the towel?… There’s Senator Ted Cruz of Texas…. And people like the Republican in the House who said he and his colleagues “have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” Also, Ted Cruz. “So many Democrats have invoked my name as the root of all evil in the world,” Cruz complained on the floor of the Senate Friday. This is true. Senate Republicans merely regard him as the root of most of the evil in the world.
But here’s my long-term theory. Over the past few years, Republicans have terrified their most fervent followers about Obamacare in order to disguise the fact that they no longer knew what to say…. Not so very long ago, worrying about entitlements was central to Republican identity. Then, they began to notice that the folks at their rallies… didn’t want to change Social Security or Medicare… didn’t even want to be reminded that Social Security and Medicare were federal programs. During the last Republican primary debates, Gov. Rick Perry called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.” Mitt Romney jumped all over him, then raced off to tell a conservative talk show host that if the Republicans nominated someone with Perry’s view on Social Security “we would be obliterated as a party.” This year, when President Obama proposed a budget that actually did reduce the rate at which Social Security benefits would rise in the future, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee denounced it as “a shocking attack on seniors.”
People like Paul Ryan still fiddled with Medicare, but only in wonkese that didn’t trickle down to the public…. Enter health care reform…. Rick Perry called Obamacare “a criminal act”… he’s so set against the new health care law that he’s refusing to let 1.5 million really poor Texans qualify for federally financed coverage. When Rick Perry has a principle, no sacrifice is too great….
Representative John Culberson of Texas called Obamacare “a violation of our most sacred right as Americans to be left alone.” This was during an interview with Salon, in which Culberson waxed wroth about the whole idea of any government intervention into health care. The interviewer, Josh Eidelson, asked, “What does that mean for Medicare, then?” “What does that mean for Medicare? What does that have to do with anything?” Culberson demanded. So there you are. It’s not easy leading a political movement that believes the federal government is at the core of all our problems while depending heavily on the votes of citizens who get both their retirement money and health care from the federal government.