By Brady Cremeens
The debate over what to do about Obamacare is roiling the conservative ranks in a way not seen since the 2012 presidential primaries. The goal then was obvious — defeat Obama — but how to arrive there was not an easy point of agreement.
Then, as now, differences of opinion regarding strategy and details dominated those dealing with policy. No conservative likes the Obamacare law, but how to minimize its damage and/or guarantee its repeal is a dilemma of weighty contention.
The strategy to “de-fund” the law by trading horses in the appropriations process (i.e., a continuing resolution) suffers from at least two major problems. First and most obvious, even in the incredibly unlikely event that it works, it will not actually thwart the law. This is an important and often neglected point. Second, because it won’t work (with the Executive and Senate firmly opposed), it will result in a government shutdown that will have to go on for several weeks or months before any Democrat feels even the slightest pressure to go along. Democrats would then play the same GOP obstructionism card that carried them through the 2012 election — and they wouldn’t be wrong. Conservatives have yet to prove we can win a messaging war even in optimal circumstances. We’d need to dominate this one, and these are not optimal circumstances.
So “defunding” doesn’t repeal, and in the process it will likely cost conservatives the support of a public which may be ready to lean their way over Obamacare. That’s a lose-lose.
It should be noted that Democrats are not blind to the havoc their health care boondoggle is wreaking. Obama delayed the employer mandate for a reason, and it wasn’t because businesses “weren’t ready.”
Fighting for implementation delay allows Democrats a free pass in election cycles Republicans absolutely must win. It’s naive and politically hazardous to believe we can defund Obamacare without a government shutdown, and without facing electoral repercussions because of it. But it’s also true that the so-named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has never been popular with the American public and this sentiment is increasing as employers and employees alike are realizing the economic and personal consequences.
What neither the defund nor delay strategies would accomplish is actually halting Obamacare. No amount of posturing can alter the fact that Democrats have the presidency for three more years and the senate for at least one more. The President’s “Legacy Legislation” is not reversible until that changes.
The only plausible way to avert Obamacare’s economic carnage — to the extent that it can be averted — is for Republicans to sweep the next two election cycles. Only that will provide the opportunity to repeal the law and reduce government intervention in the health care and insurance industries in favor of free market policies.
So, then, how? What is the surest method for Republicans to secure their majority in the House and win one in the Senate in 2014, and take the White House in 2016?
Waging a noble but futile battle from a disadvantaged striking point won’t achieve this. Ignoring the long play in favor of a high-risk, low-reward short game is folly, well-intentioned or not.
On the contrary, Democrat politicians must be forced to run their campaigns defending the law they voted for and promised would be everything it is not. The Republican/conservative strategy should be to back off. Just allow the law to hit the American economy with all the might of its several thousand pages of regulations and requirements.
We should encourage full Obamacare implementation as soon as possible. The lessons of 1994 and 2010 should be clear. When given even a brief opportunity to learn from experience (in those cases, two years each), voters remember the evils of liberalism.
If conservatives truly believe this bill is as disastrous as we’ve portrayed it — and I certainly do — then let’s allow the bill to prove itself as such. Fighting for defund or delay is merely to tinker and postpone. The Democrats should have to own this one and run on it. The economic toll will be steep, but there can be no tourniquet for the wound if Democrats continue to win elections.
Of course, this blueprint has complications of its own, not the least of which is that even with potentially controlling the Executive and both chambers of the Legislative branches for several years, the longer Obamacare becomes entrenched, the tougher it will be to unravel. But tough doesn’t equal impossible, and relinquishing some economic ground now for a far superior vantage point later seems like a gainful trade.
Supporting full and on-time implementation isn’t surrendering the fight, but amending tactics. Reversing our short-term strategy will indemnify our plan for the long run and leave the nation’s health care system and economic footing better off as a result.