Inside the House GOP, there does not seem to be any progress being made towards breaking down the resistance of conservatives determined to block any continuing appropriations resolution that does not “defend” Obamacare. Indeed, National Review‘s Robert Costa, who knows Republican politics exceptionally well, thinks the “defund Obamacare” movement is gaining strength:

As the deadline to fund the federal government nears, Republican leaders are struggling mightily to come up with legislation that can pass the House. Over the weekend, leadership staffers fired off anxious e-mails and uneasy veteran House members exchanged calls. Both camps fear that a shutdown is increasingly likely — and they blame the conservative movement’s cottage industry of pressure groups.

But these organizations, ensconced in Northern Virginia office parks and elsewhere, aren’t worried about the establishment’s ire. In fact, they welcome it. Business has boomed since the push to defund Obamacare caught on. Conservative activists are lighting up social media, donations are pouring in, and e-mail lists are growing.

For the tea-party coalition and its leaders, it’s a triumphant return to power inside the Beltway after an election cycle where they were minor players and a year on Capitol Hill in which they’ve occasionally fumbled. Republican leadership, which initially shrugged off the defunding cry, now faces a flush and angry grassroots operation.

It’s now to the point where the Big Bertha of conservative agitprop, the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal, has been deployed to talk the “defunders” out of pushing House Republicans onto the ledge:

We’ve often supported backbenchers who want to push GOP leaders in a better policy direction, most recently on the farm bill. But it’s something else entirely to sabotage any plan with a chance of succeeding and pretend to have “leverage” that exists only in the world of townhall applause lines and fundraising letters.

The best option now is for the GOP to unite behind a budget strategy that can hold 218 votes, keeping the sequester pressure of discretionary spending cuts on Democrats to come to the table on entitlements. The sequester is a rare policy victory the GOP has extracted from Mr. Obama, and it is squeezing liberal constituencies that depend on federal cash.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Millions of rank-and-file Republicans, in no small part because of what they’ve read in places like the Wall Street Journal, identify the implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 with the destruction of the U.S. economy, the advent of government-imposed euthanasia and abortion, and another sickening lurch towards the permanent emboldenment of “losers” and “looters” whose lust for other people’s property will soon know no end. Offering them instead negotiating leverage towards some Beltway deal involving Social Security COLAs or Medicare Advantage plans is laughable given such a counter-revolutionary atmosphere.

The sad thing is that conservatives have deluded themselves into thinking that polls showing majorities disapproving of Obamacare are proof that majorities favor its repeal, and will blame Obama and Democrats for a government shutdown (or debt default) fought over a repeal effort. They think their own congressional leadership is afraid to take a principled stand that will also be wildly popular.

You can call these people crazy all you want, but according to their own lights, the “defund Obamacare” strategy makes sense. Why screw around with “entitlement reform” negotiations with the evil and untrustworthy Obama (particularly when you don’t trust your own negotiators) when you can launch a direct strike on the latest and most frightening entitlement of them all, from which Americans long to be delivered?

Yeah, it’s a red meat moment for conservatives, and not a good time to be offering them tofu mixed with food coloring.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.