“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
Mark Twain’s insight comes to mind as one observes the panic of Beltway Republicans over the latest polls in the battle of Obamacare.
According to Gallup, approval of the Republican Party has sunk 10 points in two weeks to 28 percent, an all-time low. In the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, approval of the GOP has fallen to 24 percent.
In the campaign to persuade America of their Big Lie — that the House Republicans shut down the government — the White House and its media chorus appear to have won this round.
Yet, the truth is the Republicans’ House has voted three times to keep open and to fund every agency, department and program of the U.S. government, except for Obamacare.
And they voted to kill that monstrosity but once.
Republicans should refuse to raise the white flag and insist on an honorable avenue of retreat.
And if Harry Reid’s Senate demands the GOP end the sequester on federal spending, or be blamed for a debt default, the party should, Samson-like, bring down the roof of the temple on everybody’s head.
This is an honorable battle lost, not a war.
Why, after all, did Republicans stand up? Because they believe Obamacare is an abomination, a new entitlement program this nation, lurching toward bankruptcy, cannot afford.
It is imposing increases in health care premiums on millions of Americans, disrupting doctor-patient relationships and forcing businesses to cut workers back to 29 hours a week. Even Democratic Sen. Max Baucus has predicted a coming “train wreck.”
Now if the Republican Party believes this, what choice did the House have except to fight to defund or postpone it, against all odds, and tune out the whining of the “We-can’t-win!” Republican establishment?
And if Republicans are paralyzed by polls produced by this three-week skirmish, they should reread the history of the party and the movement to which they profess to belong.
In the early 1960s, when the postwar right rose to challenge JFK with Mr. Conservative, events and actions conspired to put Barry Goldwater in the worst hole of a Republican nominee in history.
Kennedy was murdered in Dallas one year before the election. Goldwater had glibly hinted he would privatize Social Security, sell the Tennessee Valley Authority and “lob one into the men’s room at the Kremlin.”
After his defeat of Nelson Rockefeller in the California primary assured his nomination, Goldwater was 59 points behind LBJ — 77-18.
The Republican liberals — Govs. Rockefeller, George Romney and William Scranton — to the cheers of the Washington press, began to attack Goldwater for “extremism” and failing to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
At the Cow Palace convention, liberals demanded Goldwater rewrite the platform to equate The John Birch Society with the Communist Party USA and the Ku Klux Klan, which had murdered four black girls at a Birmingham church in 1963 and three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Miss., that same summer.
Goldwater rejected this stinking outrage, declaring, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” And, so, the liberals all abandoned him.
One man stood by Goldwater. The two-time loser Richard Nixon, who had not won a race in his own right since 1950, campaigned for Goldwater and the party longer and harder than Barry himself.
And what became of them all?
Bill Scranton packed it in 1966. George Romney was trounced in 1968 by Nixon, with Goldwater’s legions at his side, in New Hampshire, and quit the race two weeks before the returns came in.
Rockefeller, who had spent a career calling Nixon a “loser,” lacked what it took to challenge Nixon in any of the contested primaries.
And, lest we forget, one other national Republican spoke up for Goldwater and conservatism in that 1964 humiliation, the retired Hollywood actor and impresario of GE Theater: Ronald Reagan.
Nixon and Reagan would go on to win four of the next five GOP nominations and presidential elections. In the one convention Reagan lost, 1976, the right, as the price of its support of Gerald R. Ford, demanded that Nelson Rockefeller be dumped as vice president.
Done. Rocky was last seen flipping a middle finger to the delegates happily marking “paid” on his account.
Prediction: The people who fought the battle of Obamacare will be proven right to have fought it, and America will come to see this.
And the people who said, “We can’t win!” will never win.
America is at a turning point.
If she does not stop squandering hundreds of billions on liberal agenda items like Obamacare and if she do not end these trade deficits sucking the jobs, factories and investment capital out of our country, we will find ourselves beside Greece, Spain, Illinois and Detroit.
Even if America disagrees, as in 1964 when it embraced LBJ’s Great Society plunge to social and economic disaster, Republicans need to stand up — current polls and corporate Republicans be damned.
If the right is right, time will prove it, as it did long ago.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”