Dear Republican lawmakers, free-market believers and Tea Party types:
It doesn't matter that you're right on the facts if you can't win on strategy. And a strategy that depends on making an aggressive move and winning the public opinion battle is doomed from the start.
Is that what you want heading into the 2014 elections?
The mass media will never portray you as courageous. They will never show respect for your principled stand against, say, outrageous federal spending. Even when you are merely reacting to left-wing aggression, your motives will be cast as mean-spirited, greedy and racist.
And when you are not just reacting, but actually provoking? And triggering a shutdown of the federal government? Forget it.
Not even the left, not even with the help of its shameless journalistic cheering squad, can count on getting away with such boldness. Not all the time, anyway.
Case in point: passage of the Affordable Care Act -- the cause of Washington's latest impasse.
The vast, unread, unworkable, unaffordable mess we dubbed Obamacare passed with only Democratic votes -- and not all of those, to be sure -- and the public's outrage at this irresponsible and undemocratic spectacle was great enough to overcome all the media cheerleading and give the Republicans record-breaking electoral wins in 2010.
But since the GOP failed to field a winning candidate in 2012 and lost some of the six-seat Senate gain it had picked up in 2010, it still does not control enough votes to repeal Obamacare or to impose any other fiscal caution on Washington, D.C.
That will have to wait until 2014 -- a possibility that has suddenly become much less likely, because a majority of the public blames the GOP for the federal government's shutdown.
Anyone could have called this one going in -- first, because the media have responded exactly as you'd expect. For the past year, so-called journalists by and large could not be bothered to ponder how efficiently 50 states' federally monitored "insurance exchanges" would function compared to, say, a nationwide free-market approach.
They've been remarkably uninterested for two years in asking why the Obama administration would extend special waivers or subsidies to the nation's largest employers and Congress itself, or why big labor unions -- the president's biggest supporters -- are still seeking them.
But reporters have had no trouble finding people whose access to public parks and memorials has been denied, and Wall Street analysts with no jobs report to consult, and furloughed federal workers suffering through some unpaid leave (instead of suffering on the D.C. Beltway).
It's a godsend -- or a GOP-send -- to lazy journalists.
If you'd really wanted to get rid of Obamacare, dear lawmakers and activists, the solution was to let it kick in, let the pain begin -- or continue and grow, really -- and then watch as outraged voters in our "Part-Time Nation" express their frustration at the only poll that really counts: the ballot box.
But no. Instead the GOP-led Congress muddled the issues by latching Obamacare, which about half the country wants to jettison, to the functioning of the federal government, which more than 80 percent of us want to see continue.
You House Republicans voted for all the funds necessary to run the government -- except for Obamacare?
The House, before the Senate or the president, has the constitutional right and responsibility to make spending decisions?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama are the ones who refuse to approve spending on federal government functions unless they also get funding for Obamacare?
The president has delayed implementation of much of Obamacare and has in fact unconstitutionally changed its requirements five times since its passage?
The Treasury will still be receiving tax revenues, will have more than enough to service the national debt, and will not risk default?
None of this matters because the voters interested enough to have already discovered these facts for themselves were more than likely already on your side.
It's the other half of the country you have to win over. Those are the people who are suddenly paying attention now because they are feeling the pain or worry they soon will. And they blame you for it.
You could have waited until our pain was caused directly, rather than indirectly, by Obamacare, and then let us voters speak.
You would have won, and more importantly, we the people would have won.
Thanks a lot.
Ruth Ann Dailey: firstname.lastname@example.org.