By Juan Williams - 09/30/13 10:00 AM EDT
Here’s a Democrat’s toast to Sen. Ted Cruz. His marathon of talk last week got the Texas Republican a load of media attention and raised a ton of money for far-right groups. So what if he also set fire to a war within the GOP and damaged the party’s prospects in the 2014 midterm elections?
Imagine the rage inside men like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who have opposed President Obama’s healthcare plan for years. McCain had to listen as Cruz claimed any Republican not with him was equal to those who sought to appease the Nazis.
Imagine the anger inside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) at being called “turncoats” by right-wing groups backing Cruz.
Well, we don’t have to imagine because McCain has spoken out about his rage at being equated with Nazi appeasers simply because he acknowledged that there is no way to repeal the new law with Obama in the White House.
“I resoundingly reject [the Nazi appeaser] allegation,” McCain said on the Senate floor before noting that Cruz is an example of GOP newcomers who “are in opposition right now [but] were not here at the time and did not take part” in the real “hard-fought” fight over ObamaCare that took place in 2010.
Democrats are looking on with a smile because, for all his divisive grandstanding, Cruz failed to damage ObamaCare.
His fake filibuster did not take money away from ObamaCare. It did not hamper its implementation.
But don’t let the theatrics fool you. There is a real Republican fight underway against ObamaCare. The actual political combat is taking place on television in a heavy rotation of threatening advertising campaigns. And the battle is underway in Republican-controlled state capitols that are refusing to do anything to help a successful launch.
Already the conservative billionaire Koch brothers have created a new group, Generation Opportunity, that has launched a $750,000 ad campaign to scare young people away from buying health insurance.
The Koch brothers are also running $3 million in television ads across six states in which a woman with cancer expresses fear about the new plan.
Heritage Action, the political unit of the Heritage Foundation, staged a nine-city tour during the August recess to denounce the Obama plan and raise money for more attacks against it. Another group, the Senate Conservatives Fund, ran media attacks deriding Senate Republicans as “turncoats” for not doing enough to stop Obamacare.
The Fund set a record in August by raising $1.5 million on the basis of those attacks. Club for Growth, still another right-wing group, is also raising money by bashing ObamaCare and criticizing Republicans who are not throwing their bodies across the tracks to stop it.
FreedomWorks, one more conservative group running Web advertisements to turn public opinion against the healthcare reform plan, is open and direct about wanting to subvert it before it can gain traction. Dean Clancy, their policy director, said the goal is to “hasten the collapse of Obamacare.”
These are not the first attacks on healthcare reform. “What we’ve seen for three-and-a-half years is a relentless battle driving misinformation,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services.
Constant conservative talk radio denunciations include claims of creeping socialism as well as higher taxes and job losses. All the fighting has kept public opposition to the plan high.
In addition, 26 states led by Republican governors or Republican majority legislatures have refused to set up websites to let their residents shop for insurance plans; 21 states have refused to accept the new law’s expansion of Medicaid.
These states have actually turned down billions of federal dollars that would help their poorest, uninsured citizens, preferring to do their best to derail the healthcare reform plan. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin are even pledging not to enforce new federal requirements for insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing illnesses.
These efforts to undermine public participation in the new plan are much more important than Cruz’s stunt performance. Despite the cynical politics, the new law is on track to lower the price of healthcare and give health insurance coverage to more people.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported last week that health care premiums nationwide are coming in 16 percent lower than had been projected. In addition, Sebelius said 60 percent of the Americans without health insurance will be able to buy it for less than $100 a month.
Last Thursday, President Obama spoke about the prospects for a successful healthcare program. He told his audience one Republican said the new law was worse than the Fugitive Slave Act that allowed people living in freedom to be taken back to slavery.
“I’m not making this stuff up,” the president said. Then he asked: “What is it that they are so scared about?” His answer: “What they’re worried about is it’s going to succeed.”
Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.