Shutdown comments: The loony right is not so loony as you think?

Conservative intellectual Yuval Levin writes in the National Review:

Republicans did not do nearly well enough in the last election to enact legislation that would repeal Obamacare. In order to repeal that law and attempt an effective reform of our health-care system along conservative lines, they will need to do better in the next election and the one to follow. To that end, they can take several kinds of steps with regard to Obamacare in the meantime: steps that would weaken the law (by highlighting its faults or disabling some of its elements) and ultimately make it easier to replace; steps that would weaken the law’s supporters (by further connecting them to the law in the public’s mind and forcing them to defend its least popular elements) and ultimately make them easier to replace; and steps that would strengthen the law’s opponents (by clearly identifying them as opponents of an unpopular measure and champions of a more appealing approach) and help them gain more public support.

In my view (shared with all who would listen to no avail, for what it’s worth) the original defund strategy was not well suited to doing any of these things.

Via Andrew Sullivan, who says in a post titled, How to talk to the loony right:

The tone of this piece is its perfection. The studied civility when talking with complete fanatics, the careful reason when interacting with constitutional know-nothings…

Are the loonies actually loony? In a conflict, the biggest and most common strategic mistake is to think that the other side is insane or inhuman, their action illogical or barbaric.

A few thoughts:

People value bold, symbolic gestures against things that outrage them. For a crude example, think of every Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone movie ever made–revenge taken at all costs against impossible odds. Not only do we empathize, we actually pay $15 to see it done. The main different between the loonies on the right and you is probably the issue at hand.

Also, while the bold gesture could be counter-productive, it is not always so. Yesterday, HBR’s Justin Fox reminded us what Thomas Schelling had to say about the Strategy of conflict:

If I say “Row, or I’ll tip the boat over and drown us both,” you’ll say you don’t believe me. But if I rock the boat so that it may tip over, you’ll be more impressed.

In the shutdown so far, I’ve seen very little political science in the political discussion.