With yet another, and perhaps final, collapse of Republican efforts to finally fulfill their promise to repeal Obamacare, it seems like a good time to examine the root problem which no one seems to want to admit publicly. This is a war that was lost in 2012, it’s just that there was never a formal surrender ceremony because no one had any political incentive to accept this obvious reality.
In 2012, Barack Obama was running for reelection. His party had suffered massive losses in Congress after having instituted “Obamacare” without a single Republican vote of any kind. Had he been defeated, the repeal of Obamacare would have been very possible both politically and logistically. Once Obama won, however, the chances of doing so became effectively non-existent.
It should also be noted that this reality was well known in 2012. In fact, it was a rallying cry for Mitt Romney’s campaign. As anyone with a young child knows, you only get one good opportunity to claim that this is “THE last chance,” otherwise you lose all credibility.
What essentially happened was that and Obamacare repeal — which always a long shot because of the inherent nature of healthcare and the risks of taking away such benefits from voters — was on life support until Obama was reelected. The moment he won, that plug was pulled. It’s just that Republicans were in public denial induced by their own petty self-interest.
Because Obama won, it was seen as a repudiation of the repeal effort. It also meant that the law had a chance to be fully implemented and became totally ingrained into the lifestyle and psyche of tens of millions of Americans.
They say that possession is 90% of the law, but in politics it might as well be 99%. It is nearly impossible, especially in this modern politically correct era, to take away something from a sympathetic class (in other words, those the media will rush to protect) of people.
This is all kind of like a woman who gets married to a bad match, realizes it’s a mistake and thinks that she will get a divorce when the time is right. But then, has a couple of kids (the Supreme Court decision affirming Obamacare’s legality and Obama’s reelection) in the ensuing years and, by the time the opportunity to leave finally comes, she realizes the damage/risk is now just too great.
I’m confident that most Republicans officials knew this all along. They need to placate their base, however, and keep them jazzed up by continuing to pretend that repealing Obamacare was even remotely possible. They thought they could get away with it because they never anticipated that they would get control of both houses of Congress and have a “GOP” president who ran, delusionally, promising unambiguously to repeal Obamacare.
Now, mostly due to dumb luck, their bluff has been called and the consequences are likely to be disastrous. Newt Gingrich is already sounding the alarm that this could all result in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (the prospect of which may be the GOP’s entire appeal in the 2018 elections).
Of course, Newt, a Trump sycophant, won’t admit that a large part of the problem is going to be House Republicans having to defend a “repeal” vote that even Trump called “mean,” without getting any political benefit from having actually done what they promised to do, and even, bizarrely/prematurely celebrated doing with Trump in the Rose Garden.
Trump, having already reversed himself overnight, is now essentially admitting that he has failed to deliver on his promise to repeal Obamacare (so much winning!) and is now favoring the “brilliant” strategy of letting the system die on its own. In a rational world, this might have a shot at not causing political damage to the GOP because they could make the argument, as Trump is claiming, that they don’t “own” it.
That, however, is simply not realistic. Assuming Obamacare finally implodes, it is Republicans who will “own” most of the carnage because they are in control of almost all levers of government power right now. Ironically, had Hillary Clinton won and Obamacare failed on HER “watch,” then there might have actually been a chance this strategy could work both politically and legislatively.
The most likely scenario now is that Trump loses his GOP majority just as it becomes clear Obamacare is in total disrepair and needs dramatic fixing. Gee, I wonder if the “solution” he, Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer will come up with will be something with which Republicans will be happy.
I was mocked by my fellow conservatives during the campaign for saying that we would likely be better off in the long run if Hillary won. This is yet another example of why I am surer now that I was right then I even was then.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.