These repeated acts of mass futility can be dismissed as empty posturing. More important is what’s behind these votes and other Republican resistance to the Affordable Care Act, a policy, we should all remember, that was hatched in the inner sanctums of one of Washington’s most conservative and Republican-friendly think-tanks, the Heritage Foundation.
The latest Republican intersquad scrimmage is a contest to prove who can hate Obamacare the most. Rock-solid conservative Republicans who even hint at fixing instead of setting fire to Obamacare are now subjected to attacks from their right flank.
“I’ve not seen anything like this before,” said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. “It is just such an interesting phenomenon — call it anthropological or sociological or pathological. An obsessive hatred with all things Obamacare that has infected everybody on the Republican side. They can’t say anything positive about any element of a law that is based on their own fundamental ideas.”
With most of Healthcare.gov’s problems apparently mended, President Barack Obama spoke forcefully Tuesday in defense of health-care reform. His main message: The policy, likes its website, will improve with time. And so there’s no turning back. A repeal of Obamacare is off the table so long as Obama is in the White House.
Several points should be reinforced. Obama has been an awful salesman for his administration’s signature policy. What selling he attempted has been revealed to contain inaccuracies. A policy change this sweeping needed a vocal, consistent and honest advocate. The law also deserved competent management, particularly at the crucial time of the website’s rollout; this is something Obama and his team botched.
Yet, congressional Republicans own a share of responsibility.
They’ve long since moved past the silly symbolism that’s an unfortunate byproduct of politics. Now they have entered a bitter land that only offers more purely symbolic votes against Obamacare.
What if their dreams came true and the Affordable Care Act was killed? What then? Do we revert to our old system? Do we give up on preventing the massive number of personal bankruptcies caused by expensive treatment of an illness? Do we return to the time when 50 million Americans didn’t have coverage? Do we forget any attempts to control the rising costs of health care? Do we press down harder on local hospitals to pick up the costs of the uninsured?
From the testimony before us, the Republican answer thus far to these questions is yes. The GOP would return the nation to its pre-Obamacare position. This would be a disaster.
Responsible leadership from the loyal opposition to Obama would accept the Affordable Care Act for what it is, a flawed but legitimate effort at reforming a U.S. health-care system where most Americans pay more and get less than the rest of the developed world.
Responsible leadership would offer fixes to the Affordable Care Act.
Responsible leadership would persuade its most rigid representatives that bitterness and anger is not a winning strategy for the long term.
Responsible leadership is what we lack.