With voters now living with the reality of Obamacare, and with Obama’s latest approval ratings hovering just above the percentage of people who believe in Bigfoot, the GOP suddenly confronts the challenge facing the proverbial dog who has chased cars for years and has unexpectedly caught one: What do we do now?
It is easy enough to bark about repealing Obamacare when there is no realistic chance of having to make it happen. But now that the Obamacare Speedster has four flat tires and a blown engine, it is decision time for the Republican Party.
Was all the 2012 campaign talk about repealing Obamacare just red meat for the GOP base, or will the Republicans muster the political will to do what they said they would do?
A quick scan of the current political environment says that, for once, the Republicans might be able to roll back a liberal initiative, rather than just slowing it down. Evidence is mounting daily of the magnitude of Obamacare’s failure, and polls show overwhelming willingness across the political spectrum to alter or even repeal Obamacare.
But can a party that couldn’t agree on conservative efforts to defund Obamacare really muster the courage to fight for its outright repeal?
According to Alexander Bolton of The Hill, one strategy being discussed by tea party favorites such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) is to let the disastrous launch of Obamacare follow its natural course. With millions losing their coverage and others facing stunning increases in premium costs, it may no longer be necessary for the GOP to try to the limited options of defunding or delaying Obamacare. Obamacare may now be making the case for its own repeal.
Though there is undoubtedly an element of righteous we-told-you-so to this strategy, there is also some sound logic. It was Benjamin Franklin who warned us that “experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.” The voters chose Obama twice in spite of his unpopular takeover of the healthcare system, and sometimes voters need to learn the hard way that elections have consequences, and that no amount of charisma, sweet rhetoric, and political theater can change that reality.
But the GOP still faces their ancient foe: themselves. Democrats responsible for spreading the malaise of Obamacare know that, as things stand now, they will be about as popular as Typhoid Mary going into the 2014 election, and they will be more willing now than they were just a few short weeks ago to provide symptom relief for voters. Their strategy for saving Obamacare – and their own political hides – will be to admit to problems with the launch, but to offer the solution of mending it instead of ending it. Their electoral strategy will be to reduce the pain of Obamacare without actually curing the disease. And they will demand that the Republicans join them in their mend-it-don’t-end-it strategy.
Republicans who refuse to go along will be painted by the Democrats and their allies in the media as stonewalling, as purposefully leaving the voters in pain, and the GOP will be under intense pressure to go along with piecemeal fixes rather than repeal. The siren song of appeasement will lure many in the GOP’s old guard.
The left never stays on defense for long, and the GOP establishment is not accustomed to playing offense. Obama has already tried to shift blame for the disastrous rollout of his centerpiece policy onto conservative Republicans who criticized it. And then there’s always John McCain, standing ever ready to reach across the aisle, never figuring out why his cuff links and wristwatch are missing after the exchange.
If the GOP falls into the trap of helping the Democrats to fix bits and pieces of Obamacare, then the Republicans will become – once again – the managers for the welfare state that the Democrats have created. The GOP will have their fingerprints on Obamacare, and they will have blown what may be their last realistic chance of stopping it.
Ted Cruz and Mike Lee were on the right track during the defunding debate, but the time was not right. The time is right now, but the GOP should remember that this opportunity will not last forever. Gas prices doubled under Obama, unemployment remained high, and our debt soared, but voters got used to the new normal and put him back in office. Given enough time, they will get used to a worsening health care system too, and the GOP’s opportunity will pass.
The GOP should go bold and make the case for repeal now. Hold Obama and the Democrats accountable for this disastrous bill and for the arrogant way they passed it. Make Democrats defend themselves for causing the pain before voters get used to the pain. The Republican base is ready for the fight, and the country is ready to hear the case.
But could someone hide John McCain in the attic of the Capitol until this is over?