August was supposed to be the month Congressional Republicans went home and got so much guff from base voters that they'd come back to Washington and bury immigration reform without a second thought.
Instead, the results of a highly unscientific study by Salon reveal that these Republicans are catching much more flack over the Affordable Care Act -- a three year old law they had nothing to do with passing.
It's tempting to draw deep inferences under the circumstances -- maybe Republicans will soften their immigration stance, or maybe activists will transform the once-marginal "defund Obamacare!" campaign into a full-blown government shutdown crisis. Or worse.
Get back to me at the end of August. For now, I'd just say this is exactly what you'd expect from people who've been told the things conservatives have been told about both Obamacare and immigration reform.
If Obamacare really is the freedom-crushing nightmare Republicans claim it is, then time is running out for their constituents. Enrollment in the insurance exchanges begins in less than two months. The law's core benefits kick in just three months later. At that point, the game's probably over. Repeal votes will become votes to strip millions of people of the insurance coverage they've just received. The midterms won't be the ACA referendum Republicans had hoped for, but rather a period in which Republicans publicly grapple with the fact that they have no plan to help millions of new beneficiaries after they rescind their Obamacare coverage.
There's no easy way out of the trap either. Hoping the law collapses under its own weight is one. Embarking on a "defund!" suicide mission is another. This is why conservatives, are as you read this, are trying to persuade young people to remain uninsured (a gross campaign, but one that betrays a lack of confidence that the law will fail on its own). It's also why activists are spending August demanding that their representatives shutdown the government unless Democrats agree to wipe out their signature social and economic policy achievement. Which of course they won't.
Meanwhile, what conservatives have been told about immigration is that it'll never pass the House unless a majority of House Republicans support the final product. They've also been told -- or simply recognize -- that Immigration Reform is not on autopilot like Obamacare. If Republicans don't act…nothing happens. So there's no urgency. If Republicans attempt to betray their primary voters in September or October the clamor against immigration reform will grow.
Conservatives who recognize the danger of the defund campaign believe these are misguided priorities. Why fight what you're powerless to change and ignore the things whose fates you control? Well, GOP base voters have never really struck me as devoted adherents to the Serenity Prayer. But given the signals they've received from conservative elites, who can blame them?