Republicans are going through the classic stages of grief over the passage of Obamacare. It occurred back in 2010, but to them, it feels like yesterday.
It is as if someone dear to them has died. In this case, what died — in their view — is the finest medical system on the planet, along with the loss of personal freedoms.
Never mind whether it is good legislation or horrible legislation. (Personally, I think it is horrible legislation.) The fact is that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. It was passed by Congress, signed by the president and found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The GOP is still grieving. And when someone is grieving from a loss, there are stages of dealing with it — or not dealing with it — that are common.
Stage one is denial.
The tea party wing of the Republican Party, in particular, cannot accept that Obamacare is here to stay, probably forever. Therefore, they deal with it by denying that it is all over. They delude themselves into thinking they can somehow unravel it, change it, defund it, obliterate it. There is total denial of the reality of the situation.
Stage two is anger.
As the denial starts to wear off, reality and its pain emerge. What you see in the Republican-controlled Congress is uncontrolled anger. GOP members lash out at Obama. They refuse to talk to Democrats. They are thrashing about in a major tantrum. They seek revenge. Some of this dates back to the day Barack Obama was first elected, but Obamacare has brought anger to a head.
Stage three is bargaining.
A normal reaction to feelings of helplessness is usually a need to regain control. This is the stage Republicans in Congress find themselves in currently. Since they cannot change Obamacare or even modify it a wee bit, they feel a sense of helplessness. And to regain control, they are holding the national budget hostage.
All three of the preliminary stages of grief are now in play. The denial, anger and bargaining have resulted in the partial shutdown of the federal government.
What comes next?
Eventually — and hopefully not too long from now — the Republicans will accept the fact that they cannot change what is, and they will be saddened by this outcome.
Stage four is depression.
When the hardcore right capitulates, or enough sensible Republicans decide to abandon the futile efforts they have tried and failed at, many may enter a depressive state.
In this phase, they are in need of helpful cooperation and a few kind words. This is when Obama can demonstrate that he has character, sensitivity, and some kindness.
The president should, after the shutdown is over, reach out to Republicans and offer some sort of magnanimous gesture. He might, for example, agree to reconsider the tax on medical devices that helps pay for Obamacare. It is unpopular with Republicans and Democrats alike. That would be a gallant move.
The last stage is acceptance.
Many people in the grieving process never get to this stage. It is quite possible that many Republicans, particularly the tea party wing, will never accept Obamacare, or even accept that Obama is the twice duly elected president of the United States.
Those who make it to this stage, however, will feel a sense of calm. They have made their peace and are ready to move on.