Things on the ObamaCare front have been looking pretty bleak. ObamaCare passed the Congress, of course leading (in part) to the huge House upset in 2010 in which Republicans regained control. But to what end? Subsequent attempts to repeal it or delay it have failed thus far. And we just witnessed more than two weeks of shutdown theater, in which the Republican House offered bill after bill to fund the government, only to be told by Harry Reid and other Senate Democrats that there was NO NEGOTIATING on defunding or delaying ObamaCare.
And then the scope of the problems with the Healthcare.gov website became undeniable, causing Democrats, led by Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), to jump on the ‘delay’ bandwagon. Politicians and pundits who a mere few weeks ago were labeling delay-supporting Republicans as ‘terrorists’ and ‘arsonists’ now find themselves making the very same arguments they reviled. It would be funny if it weren’t so important.
ObamaCare has two fundamental flaws. The failure of the expensive boondoggle of a website is merely the minor one. The major one is that the entire idea of government-run health care sucks. We’ve long seen proof in the miserable Medicaid system, the troubled Veterans Administration, the various Medicare system problems. We’ve also seen it in the sluggish job market and miserable economy, as businesses reacted to the anticipated challenges that implementing ObamaCare would bring. Now we’re starting to see even more personal (and immediate and dramatic) proof emerge as people report getting renewal notices and policy cancellations from their insurance companies, as well as doctors and other medical professionals complaining about the technology mandates or leaving the profession altogether.
Note: This would be a good time to stop reading my piece and go peruse Matt Walsh’s excellent and vital“The Definitive Guide to How Obamacare is Destroying American Lives.” I’ll wait…
Neither the website failure nor the system failure matter to the people pushing Obama’s signature legislation. What matters is getting something – ANYTHING – off the paper and into practice. How it works is essentially irrelevant; the president will continue to unilaterally (read: without Congress) decide what parts to implement and what parts to delay or change. And this will work for them, because it allows them to spin a narrative that Obama is continually finding ways to improve people’s access to health care.
Not coverage; HEALTH CARE. That’s important to note.
So naturally, the topic among those on the rightward end of the political spectrum is “What Next?” What do conservatives in general, and the GOP specifically, do in the face of the current circumstances?
APPRECIATE THAT TIME IS SHORT – There isn’t a lot of time for finger-pointing and blaming on the right. Implementation happens in January, absent a move to delay the mandates. Circular firing squads won’t help us either get to a unified message or execute a strategy. While it may feel good to find someone to blame and trot out the “I Told You So’s”, they ultimately get in the way of our greater goal – defeating ObamaCare.
DETERMINE A STRATEGY – This is where it gets tricky. There are multiple options, and each have problems.
Force the Democrats and Obama to implement ObamaCare as ‘the law of the land’ without tweaks or delays, with the intention of illustrating to people how horrible the program is. This “they made their bed” strategy is extremely appealing – give the people what they want, and see how they REALLY like it. Sadly, it rests on several assumptions:
1) that the GOP can hang together in a single strategy.
2) that they can overcome progressive messaging and media complicity of “Republicans flip-flopping”
3) that they can successfully articulate an alternative that counters the ObamaCare narrative
4) that in spite of decades of evidence to the contrary, a government program will be repealed
Go along with Democrats and delay the mandates. Any delay could be a good delay if Republicans message it properly. Too much “I Told You So” and not enough “We’re Working to Find Solutions” will likely backfire in the current climate. People have been taught to fear market-based health care solutions, and Republicans will have to overcome that challenge with clear and simple (and digestible and shareable) messaging that:
1) They ARE proposing alternatives
2) Those alternatives are FAR better
This, however, puts Republicans in the position of having to walk and chew gum at the same time; to message that they are not obstructing (allowing the delay to make ObamaCare work ‘better) while at the same time doing everything they can to replace ObamaCare with a superior alternative. And they have to do it during a contentious primary season, when all the ammunition will be spent on each other rather than towards defeating Obama and the Democrats.
Allow ObamaCare to be implemented and fix as much of it as possible. This is the view of those labeled “The Surrender Caucus” – politicians and pundits who ‘see the writing on the wall’ and believe ObamaCare is here to stay, so we might as well make it work as well as possible. While this is certainly a somewhat realistic view (given that nothing done in Washington D.C. is ever undone), it ignores the loud and fervent opposition to ObamaCare among Republican primary voters. The tea party and liberty movement energized the turnout in 2010, and 2014 could operate under the same dynamics now that ObamaCare is back at the top of the threat list. If these politicians are seen to be abandoning the fight against ObamaCare, the electoral consequences may be devastating to their career.
I think a lot of low-info voters are fine with the idea of Obamacare, which is a real problem for conservatives. By conflating ‘health care’ with ‘health insurance’ the left has made this issue more difficult to talk about. The time it takes you to explain the difference is longer than a lot of attention spans. So out of the gate, we have the problem of clarifying terms.
The next problem is that it looks like people with no insurance are getting SOMETHING, whereas now they are perceived to have NOTHING. The something, even if it’s crap, ruinous, and unconstitutional, looks like it’s an improvement over nothing. Again, the left has owned this issue by framing it as denial of something that helps people by evil, greedy right-wingers who don’t want to pay their fair share.
Then we have the issue of selling a solution. When there is some order in a system, however bad, the idea that overthrowing the system in favor of something untried (such as market-based health care) can appear chaotic and merciless. “Pre-existing conditions!” “Medical bankrptcy!” The people who don’t eatlivebreathe politics and liberty are just responding, again, to the emotional fear of uncertainty.
Conservatives didn’t create the situation we find ourselves in. We didn’t make up the rules of the game. But we had better learn what they are, and learn to fight on the field in front of us, rather than wishing for people to experience a revelation. Dennis Prager says that he’s afraid people do not really wish to be free, but instead to be taken care of. We need to ponder that long and hard in the days ahead, before we get to 2014. Republicans need to have good answers to all these attacks, and also learn to talk about their ideas positively. We’ve said ‘ObamaCare Sucks” for years now, and it didn’t move the needle. We need to prove that it does – that is IS – AND that there’s a much better way that helps many more people than ObamaCare does.
And we need to do it with urgency. We’re going to be hearing “give ObamaCare a chance to work” over and over. We should respond with how well it’s ‘working’ for those people dropped, or who’ve had their premiums increase dramatically, or who have lost jobs. We have to frame that the law is SO BAD it’s destroying people’s lives RIGHT NOW and MUST be replaced with good alternatives that we can clearly and simply articulate. Because if the true destination of ObamaCare was always a single-payer system (and they’ve admitted it is) we must get ahead of that argument. They will blame the failure of ObamaCare on the insurance companies and the private sector, and maintain that the ONLY way to get good coverage for everyone is for the government to do it. We can’t let them even get that narrative started – we have to destroy that idea NOW.
I don’t envy the RNC or the Republicans in D.C. their task. But I do hope that by thinking through all the angles on the coming fight, we become better equipped to face what’s coming. If you’re passionate about the fight against ObamaCare, I encourage you to read these articles from the various angles: