I hope you’re sitting down for this because it looks as though Republican opposition to Obamacare was largely nothing more than political posturing all along. Despite repeatedly voting to repeal Obamacare during Obama’s tenure in office (When there was no chance it would actually happen, in other words), when Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House they decided the best they could do was tinker with some numbers and eliminate the mandates. The result of which is that the Affordable Care Act not only remains in effect but is entirely unchanged.
But Democrats, and the left in general, shouldn’t be too quick to pat themselves on the back. Sure after 7 years of Republicans constantly threatening to repeal the signature legislation of the Obama administration, Obamacare is likely on firmer ground than it has ever been, but this was not due to the efforts of The Resistance. Trumpcare, Ryancare, the AHCA, or whatever you want to call it failed to pass because the GOP reaffirmed their status as the stupid party.
President Trump and Speaker Ryan decided to push a bill that could have easily been put forward by Democrats rather than a bill that would appeal to conservatives who genuinely opposed Obamacare for principled reasons. In other words, they chose to appeal to people in the opposition party who they had to know would never support them regardless of what they put up for a vote due to political considerations, and chose to alienate people in their own party who might have supported them if they had put up a bill that included more market-based reforms.
The reason that “repeal and replace” failed is because Paul Ryan and Donald Trump thought that they could bully conservative Republicans into supporting a bill that mostly only rebrands Obamacare rather than actually trying to change America’s health care system for the better, and they were wrong. This was a political victory for people like Representative Justin Amash, not Representative Nancy Pelosi.
Some on the left are claiming that moderate Republicans turned against the American Health Care Act because the recent string of unfriendly town halls with their constituents convinced them that doing so would lose them their position in Congress.
For some reason we’re supposed to believe that progressive activists shouting at Republican members of Congress about Russia somehow scared them into dropping their opposition to Obamacare.
Unfortunately for Democratic activists who want to believe they’ve finally landed a blow against President Trump and Congressional Republicans, the timeline doesn’t quite fit. Moderate Republicans didn’t publicly jump ship until the very last minute when it became clear that the bill wasn’t going to pass regardless, and since Trump was initially interested in forcing a vote they weren’t willing to risk their seats supporting a bill that had no chance. It was the Freedom Caucus’s opposition in the House of Representatives that killed the bill with the moderates only abandoning it after the fact.
Despite reports that he was going to petulantly leave Obamacare in place forever if conservatives didn’t pass his bill yesterday, it looks like President Trump is still interested in ultimately branding health care in America in his own image.
Perhaps he’ll tackle it again in two years after targeting conservatives who opposed the American Health Care Act when they’re up for re-election and trying to replace them with people more favorable to his policies. Regardless, it seems clear that the next step for progressives is to look into repealing Obamacare themselves and replacing it with a single-payer system. This has been the goal of the far-left all along, with Obamacare representing a stepping stone in that direction, and with the GOP fighting amongst themselves and the midterm elections coming up in two short years now seems like the perfect opportunity for them to push forward along those lines.
That this would be a disaster and make things even worse doesn’t change the fact that it would be a good political strategy for a Democratic Party in desperate need of a rebranding after the debacle of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.