Why are the Tea Party Republicans so desperate to defund ObamaCare right now? Because they know that once it goes into effect its popularity will skyrocket.
They know that once it is fully implemented, it will be impossible to take away the many benefits of ObamaCare. It is one thing to prevent something good from being passed by Congress. It's quite another to take something away from the voters.
The Republicans know that once it is in effect, it will be impossible to tell the millions of Americans who have a pre-existing condition that they have to return to the days when they either were denied insurance coverage or had to pay an arm and a leg to get it.
They know that once it is in effect, it will be impossible to end the affordable coverage that will soon be available to the millions who are not covered by their employers and will have access to health insurance through the health insurance exchanges - where prices have come in lower than projected.
They know that once it is in effect, it will be very difficult to end coverage for the millions who will for the first time have health insurance through expanded Medicaid.
They know that once it goes into effect, it will be very hard to convince Americans to turn the health care system back over to the big insurance companies.
Most importantly, they know that all of the many ObamaCare "horrors" they have predicted - from "death panels" to price increases to a "government takeover" - will not happen.
As a consequence, they believe that once ObamaCare is fully implemented their credibility on the subject will collapse, support for major new progressive initiatives will increase, the popularity of the President - and of Democrats in Congress - will go up, and their chances of hanging on to the House or taking the Senate in 2014 - and the White House in 2016 - will decline.
All of that is why the Tea Party Republicans are so desperate to stop ObamaCare. That's why they will risk shutting down the government or defaulting on America's obligations - on the chance that they can force President Obama and the Democrats to delay its implementation and allow them to live to fight another day.
They are desperate. And to achieve their narrow ideological goal, they are willing to use the same desperate measures that other marginal movements have adopted around the world: they have taken a hostage. Except their hostage is not one person - it's 320 million people - it's the American economy.
The success of their hostage taking strategy faces two virtually insurmountable obstacles:
First, the President has made clear that he is not willing to negotiate at all over the debt ceiling or ObamaCare.
Many of these hostage takers are the same people who would demand, categorically, that the American government should never negotiate with hostage takers, because to do so only encourages them to take more hostages and make more demands.
President Obama apparently agrees with them. He knows that if he negotiates with people who are willing to collapse the American economy just to get their way, that they will then use the same threat again and again. And he is unlikely to budge, since he is obviously unwilling to sacrifice his signature initiative -- ObamaCare.
Second, many key GOP stake holders think that the Tea Party's willingness to shut down the government or cause a default is sheer madness and would severely damage the GOP brand. Democratic pollsters Jim Carville and Stan Greenberg wrote in a memo last Wednesday:
The Republican Party has a serious brand problem, and it keeps getting worse. The GOP is viewed unbelievably negatively, and even Republicans themselves agree that it is deeply divided.
Polls show the Republican brand problem manifesting itself in the Virginia gubernatorial race, and in Senate races across the country. And if Republicans damage their brand even worse by shutting down the government, we think that they could trigger a revolt that might even imperil their House majority in 2014.
The GOP demand that President Obama and the Democrats surrender or face a government shutdown or default is like a combatant in a war demanding that the other side surrender or he'll blow his own head off. From a purely political point of view -if it weren't so bad for the country and economy - you'd have to say: "Go ahead, make my day."
All the polls show that if either a shutdown or default takes place, the Republicans will take the blame by a factor of at least two to one.
And after they have taken the blame, in the end they will collapse. Even the Wall Street Journal editorial page said recently:
The evidence going back to the Newt Gingrich Congress is that no party can govern from the House, and the Republican Party can't abide the outcry when flights are delayed, national parks close and direct deposits for military spouses stop. Sooner or later the GOP breaks.
So while the state of desperation in evidence among Tea Party Republicans at the prospect of ObamaCare going into effect -- and becoming very popular -- might be understandable, their desperate strategy of holding the economy hostage in order to kill it is downright suicidal.
Then again, while suicide bombers end up as victims of their own actions at the end of the day, there is no question they can inflict enormous amounts of pain and suffering on everyone else.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.