Mark Schmitt is very despondent about the meaning of the failed Republican healthcare ‘plan’ (boldface mine):
Yet we should also take a few minutes to be angry, furious even, about the sad last act of this long political showdown, one that consumed, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put it this week, “the better part of a decade.”
Consider this: Long before Donald Trump came along, the Republican Party ran four election campaigns — 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 — on the promise to rid the country of the hated and oppressive Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” as they alone called it until 2011, when President Obama unwisely embraced the epithet. In three of those four elections, they captured another arm of government, all on the promise of ACA repeal: the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the White House in 2016.
Every time you read about how many House and Senate seats, how many statehouses, how many thousands of seats in state legislatures turned Republican since 2008, think about how many of them swung on the backlash against the Affordable Care Act. Not all of them, to be sure, but even at the state level, Medicaid expansion and whether to form a state exchange were central questions in a great many election fights, always as symbols of oppressive big government. And there wasn’t one House or Senate race in which some aspect of “Obamacare” didn’t play a major role.
Yet in all this time, the Republican Party never fully articulated an alternative, beyond phrases like “patient-centered” or “market-based.” (The ACA is, in fact, a market-based system.) It’s now seven and a half years since Eric Cantor, then the Republican whip and a rising star, promised a full alternative to the ACA “within a few weeks.” The various repeals Republicans passed were rough sketches, doomed to failure in the Senate or veto, purely symbolic votes.
And then, when the moment came, when Republicans finally had full control of government, it took barely two months for them to admit they hadn’t really thought it through.
…long before they failed to develop an alternative to the ACA, it had become apparent that Republicans lacked a coherent argument about what was wrong with the law. In the early years, they talked about the individual mandate a lot, as a potent symbol of state control over the individual, but after the Supreme Court upheld the mandate, they lost interest in that argument. They denounced it as a “one size fits all” solution, but that’s actually unspecific and deceptive — what “size” would work better? More recently, and with impressive talking point discipline, they decried it in technocratic terms — it wasn’t working because premiums had soared in some states, and there was only one insurer in many counties. Those are real issues, but they are a long way from treating the ACA as the EZ-Pass Lane on the Road to Serfdom…
Other crises and issues are likely to emerge between now and the 2018 midterm elections. So it’s entirely possible that Republicans will pay no political price attributable to today’s failure 19 months from now. That is to say, Democrats paid a staggering, existential price for finally succeeding in delivering health insurance to almost everyone. And Republicans will pay none for eight years of pretending they had a better, cheaper, painless way to reach the same goal, only to reveal at the end that they had nothing, not even a Laffer curve drawn on a napkin.
I don’t disagree (though it glosses over the problems with the ACA). But how is this different from most Republican issues? Other than removing business regulations that businesses don’t like* and cutting taxes on the wealthy and the rich, Republicans don’t take governance seriously at all. Was gay marriage a serious issue? ‘Judicial activism’ by liberal judges was all the rage–until conservative justices became ‘active’–then not so much. First, they embraced cap-and-trade to halt global warming until they opposed cap-and-trade. That’s just three off the top of my head.
With Republicans, it’s always about cutting rich people’s taxes and favorably deregulating business. Everything else is a sideshow.
*Other regulations are just peachy.