“Defund Obamacare” Just A Fundraising/List-Building Scheme?

Matt Lewis of The Daily Caller points to some interesting comments from conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt about the “Defund Obamacare” movement:

My friend and former colleague Hugh Hewitt is a big supporter of the effort to defund ObamaCare, going so far as to call House staffers who oppose this effort “weenies.” But even Hewitt doesn’t really believe victory is possible.

In fact, he admitted it on his radio show the other day:

“We’re not going to win this fight,” he conceded. “Please understand that. We’re not going to win this fight. But we are going to educate the American people about what a disaster it is. And we’re going to build the list. And we’re going to identify the activists.” (Emphasis mine.)


Hewitt continued:

“They know from [Karl] Rove that part of the key thing for winning in 2014 is identifying our people. We have to find our people. We are out of the data business. We are rebuilding. Reince Priebus is doing a great job. But we don’t know where they are, and they’re not connected. We gotta find them. And how do you find them? You talk about — you generate excitement — you draw attention to a great debate about ObamaCare. But you know what, the president doesn’t want to do that. He controls the stage. He has the bully pulpit. We have to manufacture occasions and events on which people will listen to our arguments.” (Emphasis mine.)

Lewis’s reaction seems apropos:

This strikes me as an intellectually dishonest pursuit.

It’s a bait-and-switch.

The now-stated goal of identifying activists and building lists requires “manufacturing” events to generate excitement. But the problem is that generating this excitement necessarily requires Republicans to mislead their base (because nobody in their right mind is going to excited and sign up for your “list” if you admit it’s a waste of time.)

Step 1 is to get their hopes up and to make them believe you can do something you know you can’t deliver on. And so, the the base become pawns — rubes.

The question, I guess, is when the base on the right — the people who turn out to rallies and send in contributions — a good many of whom are regular hard-working Americans who, while you may disagree with them, really are concerned with the future of their country, are going to realize that they’re being suckered.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. wr says:

    I guess the theory is if the Republicans force a default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling and tank the world’s economy, anyone who still approves of them is a real diehard.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    I don’t believe that this is just a fundraising ploy, though it is certainly excellent fodder for that.

    These are true believers and they’re all in for the fight. I see them as I see the anti-reproductive choice (e.g. anti-abortion) true believers – the struggle goes on forever for those people.

    The tea party people and their elected representatives see this as the perfect time to starve the beast – or at least begin the process whereby people actually entertain the idea that social programs like Social Security and Medicare should be privatized and sunset-ed if possible. They’re not interested in reform, they’re interested in revolution. I take them seriously, and I hope they fail miserably (though I do not believe that that will happen.)

  3. CSK says:

    You know what? Any members of the “base” who read this are going to dismiss Lewis as a RINO elitist beltway insider liberal hack and a tool of the Establishment. A few might have second thoughts about Cruz, but the majority have far too much emotionally invested in him to realize that he’s just another bloviating con artist who’s convinced them that he’s the only man in Washington standing up for “real Americans.”

  4. M. Bouffant says:

    The challenge is finding a Republican outrage-of-the-day that isn’t an attempt to scare the base into giving more money & addresses.

    I’ll grant that the people taken in by this stuff are concerned w/ the future of our country, but scaring people to fundraise distracts from real issues & doesn’t help anyone’s future.

  5. matt bernius says:

    Part of the challenge facing Republicans and Conservatives is that the organizations and individuals who are building Hewitt’s lists are *NOT* primarily building them for political action. They are building them for *marketing* purposes. Beyond fundraising for the politicians and political orgs, the goal is to build proof of audience reach for advertisers AND pools of buyers for products.

    This means that the outrage machine only can keep moving forward by consuming its own. And at some point, that makes the machine a slave to its fuel.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    As Bouffant rightly points out: this is the GOP. This is not a governing party, this is not even an activist party, this is a fleece-the-rubes party.

  7. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    People like Cruz are the political version of televangelists. They promise salvation in return for cash.

  8. Mark Ivey says:

    But them Republican rubes are BEGGING to be fleeced though… :))

  9. C. Clavin says:

    Grifters gotta grift…

  10. Scott O says:

    You’re slipping up here Doug. You forgot to tell us that both sides do it.

  11. edmondo says:

    @Scott O:

    You forgot to tell us that both sides do it.

    You mean like gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis?


  12. Scott O says:


  13. Anonne says:

    The wingnut gravy train is a lucrative one, why not invite people to hitch on for the ride?

  14. C. Clavin says:
  15. edmondo says:
  16. jukeboxgrad says:

    Where do those articles say that Davis knew her filibuster would fail and she was just doing it to raise money?

    And she didn’t fail: she achieved her goal, which was to delay passage of the bill.

  17. wr says:

    @edmondo: Says the disappointed Obama voter who just can’t believe he didn’t turn out to be the liberal icon he campaigned for.

    Really, is it too much bother to change IDs when you change your persona? Or are we supposed to pretend not to notice that half the time you’re a disillusioned liberal and the other half you’re just a straight rightwing hack?

  18. edmondo says:


    just a straight rightwing hack?

    You forgot to call me a racist – you’re slipping.

  19. Jarvis says:

    People are getting rich off this, not the way to go.

  20. Rob in CT says:

    The question, I guess, is when the base on the right — the people who turn out to rallies and send in contributions — a good many of whom are regular hard-working Americans who, while you may disagree with them, really are concerned with the future of their country, are going to realize that they’re being suckered.

    You can’t fool all of the people all of the time. But you can, apparently, fool some of the people all of the time.

    Also, if you think of US politics as a true “long game” (in fact, a game that in theory could never end), then you can spin this sort of thing as a tactical defeat that can turn into strategic success. Such things do happen (and, in fact, on bad days I worry that is what’s developing here).