Ask most people on Capitol Hill and they’ll say: 50-50. Those are the odds they give for a government shutdown.
An alternative to the shutdown would be a proposed delay of the individual mandate, the most painful part of Obamacare, which may seem like a Republican victory but upon closer inspection would be a win for President Obama and Democrats.
Postponement of the individual mandate is part of the GOP bargaining package on raising the debt ceiling. Delay it for a year, say Republican leaders, and they’ll raise the debt limit for a year to keep the government operating.
The many flaws have been fully vetted for months, though new ones continue to reveal themselves as we approach the insurance-exchange shopping spree scheduled to begin today.
Here’s the problem for Republicans, which will not be news to those with a view of the long game. The short game is to stall Obamacare, but to what end ultimately? Until Republicans can seize the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016, at which point they can repeal the whole thing?
Skinny chance, that.
Now consider the alternative scenario: Suppose Republicans succeed in getting the individual mandate delayed for a year — right up to the 2014 midterm elections. Bravo, right?
If voters don’t have to experience the uncertainty and discomfort of being forced to buy insurance in an unwieldy, dysfunctional system — all the while noticing that millions are still without coverage — who benefits?
Surely not the Republicans, who, on the one hand, can be blamed for depriving insurance coverage.
On the other, they accrue no benefit from having prevented the pain of implementing Obamacare.
Republicans lose either way, but they may lose biggest if they win.
Alternatives to present circumstances do not abound. Republicans have drawn their red line in the sand. Democrats have drawn theirs. Obama says no negotiating over the debt ceiling, period.
There is one alternative that is both perhaps best for the country and hardest for Obama. He could relent not to Republicans but to the greater good.
He could delay full implementation past the 2014 elections, which would accomplish two things: One, he could iron out the wrinkles that are now apparent.
Two, Democrats would get to slide through another election cycle without the most visibly painful part of Obamacare — the individual mandate.
What, really, does Obama have to lose?
Only face, the pain of which passes.
What he would gain is the legacy that escapes so many these days — proof that he is a leader who does the right thing, even if it hurts his pride just a little.
Republicans, who will have banished themselves to wander a while longer in the desert, may have drawn a line too far.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.