The biggest zombie roaming the land this Halloween is ObamaCare. It remains broadly disliked by the American people, as it has been since the day it slithered out of the Democrats’ political laboratory… but the public has developed a certain degree of weary resignation to living with what they think is an un-killable monster, just as the Democrats planned. There’s no shortage of cynicism in politics, but ObamaCare is one of the worst examples ever. The strategy all along was to intimidate and exhaust Americans into submitting to it.
It doesn’t matter that hardly anyone likes it, and some people are really suffering under it, both physically and financially – those people get the “Cask of Amontillado” treatment, bricked up in the media basement so that no one outside of alternative media hears their cries. What matters is that this thing was given fangs and claws to defend itself, acid blood to eat away the Constitution when it’s wounded, and a layer of mandatory-spending bone thick enough to deflect any defunding stake over its heart. By now, anyone paying attention should have noticed that its funding mechanisms were the only parts of the Affordable Care Act written carefully. The sloppily-written passages about subsidies might up being the weakness that kills this monster, but its authors made damn sure the people’s representatives would have a hard time putting it down through the legislative process.
Opinions vary over exactly how difficult that will be. The opinions of Senator Mitch McConnell – the Majority Leader-in-waiting, assuming he survives his own re-election bid, which appears likely at the moment – have varied quite a bit over the past week. In the sort of gaffe that has been known to swamp Party boats during wave elections, McConnell reversed his long-standing position that since the Supreme Court kept ObamaCare alive by ruling the mandates are taxes, the Senate could repeal it with 51 votes. The prospect of donning his “Braveheart” war paint with at least 50 other Republicans behind him and riding into battle against ObamaCare after the midterm elections evidently caused McConnell’s thinking to shift, as he told Neil Cavuto of Fox News that it would take 60 Republicans to get the job done against a likely Democrat filibuster, and “nobody thinks we’re going to have 60 Republicans.”
That didn’t go over well with the people paying close attention – i.e. Republican voters who have been asked to fight like crazy to make Mitch McConnell the Majority Leader – so now we’re back to 51 votes, and shame on you for ever thinking McConnell thought otherwise, no matter what he might have said on the most-watched cable news network. “Leader McConnell is and has always been committed to the full repeal of Obamacare, and he’ll continue to lead efforts to repeal and replace it with patient-centered reforms that enable greater choice at lower costs,” said a spokesman. “He knows it won’t be easy, but he also believes that if Republicans are fortunate enough to take back the majority we???ll owe it to the American people to try through votes on full repeal, the bill???s most onerous provisions, and reconciliation.”
“Reconciliation is a parliamentary maneuver that allows legislation to be passed without needing the usual 60 votes to overcome blockage by a filibuster,” the Washington Examiner explains, noting that “a number of people” took McConnell’s earlier comments to mean he wouldn’t be willing to use reconciliation to get rid of ObamaCare. I guess that number of people would include everyone who thought he was being serious when he said exactly that. How could the Senator have forgotten that conservative voters are accustomed to being disappointed after the election?
McConnell also made the logically valid observation to Neil Cavuto that Republicans couldn’t possibly muster the numbers needed to override President Obama’s veto of an ObamaCare repeal bill. Yes, but it’s still worth making him use that veto pen, instead of getting what he wants by merely twiddling it between his thumbs and giving you the stink-eye, isn’t it, Senator McConnell?
This is something Republicans seem fundamentally unable to grasp: it is necessary to force the adversary to expend political capital, rather than just piling it up and winning through intimidation. The latter is Obama’s core strategy – it’s hard to remember now, given his unpopularity, but back in his salad days he put a good deal of effort into campaigning on issues where he thought Democrats already had a popularity advantage. He did this because he wanted to run up their lead and change Republican thinking with opinion polls and talking-head media harassment (“Senator Pachyderm, how can you possibly oppose the President when polls say 62.5% of the public agrees with his position?”) Obama wanted to win political battles without actually fighting them, creating a political environment where it’s always midnight on Halloween, and a clown holding bad poll numbers is forever knocking on the Republicans’ door.
The great thing about this strategy, when it works, is that it prevents the adversary from doing anything that would actually change the game, especially when they have very limited ability to influence people through pop-culture and news-media back channels. (When it doesn’t work, you end up where Obama is today, flailing haplessly around and calling the American people fools for giving you low approval ratings.) The one thing Republicans can do to shift the conversation and set the topic for a news cycle is unite, as a party, around well-crafted legislation and force the Democrats to go on the record opposing it. Until now, they haven’t been able to do that from the House, because every time the House sends good bills to the Democrat Senate, Harry Reid emerges from the shadows wearing a bleached William Shatner mask and knifes those bills in the back, and drags the corpses into his office for quiet disposal.
It is very likely that Harry Reid will cease to be the Senate Majority Leader next week. That means it’s time for the Republican leadership to not only satisfy their base voters by doing what they want – an important component of this whole “representative government” thing, which is not supposed to be about electing people to represent Washington’s interests to us – but also start bleeding Democrats of their hoarded political capital. Going after an unpopular, deeply troubled, insanely expensive health care scheme defended by an even more unpopular President is a great way to do that, provided Republicans are unified and have constructive alternate proposals. (They do – they always have, despite Obama-media propaganda to the contrary – but they really need to get behind one of them, in unison, and sell the dickens out of it.)
Even better: that unpopular President will be backed up by a weakened, demoralized Democrat Party filled with finger-pointing and recriminations for their electoral losses. It’s also a party of arrogant elitists who aren’t shy about taking their anger and frustration out on the idiotic American people for refusing to support them. (This is the party where Senators think accusing their own electorates of racism is a winning election strategy.) Hit them hard and fast with ObamaCare repeal – say, right about the time all those hidden and illegally-delayed features are blowing up in the faces of the American people, and they’re reeling in shock from the premium hikes that were kept secret until after the midterm elections – and you can not only give the Democrat vampire a face full of garlic, but also begin the essential and painstaking process of moving popular opinion to their side.
Yes, the public doesn’t like ObamaCare, but there’s work to be done building support for repeal. A Wednesday article at Politico cited a Harvard School of Public Health poll showing that support for repeal stood at 31 percent, but an additional 23 percent wanted ObamaCare “scaled back.” Given how complicated ObamaCare is – and how often President Obama has illegally modified it, to keep support for repeal from exploding – it’s possible a lot of those poll respondents don’t know precisely what they mean by “scaled back”; they just have a general sense that the law is too onerous, filled with too many mandates and penalties, and it’s doing bad things to the price of health insurance. Some of the things they probably want “scaled back” would kill ObamaCare, either quickly or slowly – without all those mandates, it’s not much more than a big expansion of Medicaid, which is something the American people deserve a rational discussion about, not flim-flammery from ObamaCare snake-oil salesmen. That “scaled back” figure represents a huge opportunity for Republicans to explain that instead of clipping a few tentacles off the ObamaCare monster, we need to replace it with something both better-designed, and more consistent with American values.
Another poll released today from the Associated Press found the Democrat advantage on health care among likely voters had dwindled to a mere 4 points – and they’re the only ones who have had any actual power to do anything on the subject for years – while a curiously-structured question found that 58 percent favored repeal of ObamaCare versus 40 percent who want it completely implemented as written. (That ship has sailed, folks. It’s not being implemented as written, not even close. The old Constitutional understanding of the relationship between the legislative and executive branches of government was repealed by ObamaCare.) However, only a third of poll respondents actually expected repeal. That’s called despair, my friends. The public knows what it wants, but it thinks Obama and the Democrats have saddled them with something they can never get rid of. So much for “hope and change,” huh?
You are the Part of Hope and Change now, Republicans. It is not fitting for politicians to reduce the great American people to a mass of helpless dependents who can only “hope” some gang of ambitious officials “changes” their lives for the better. But at the moment, there is a genuine sense of hopelessness around ObamaCare. You can change that. You can convince people the Democrats were lying when they said ObamaCare was the best America can hope for.
One other interesting bit from the Harvard poll described by Politico is that Americans’ support for “universal health coverage” dipped to 47 percent during the political battle over ObamaCare in 2009, and stayed there. It is speculated that ObamaCare’s flaws and failures are making people think that universal coverage has too many undesirable “side effects” in practice, no matter how appealing it might sound in theory. I would propose another explanation: some of the specific problems with ObamaCare, from rate shock and sky-high out-of-pocket expenses to the difficult of finding a doctor, are reminding people that health insurance is not the same thing as health care. Every Republican politician should understand that the Left will eventually exploit that understanding to argue for junking health insurance altogether, and putting the government directly in charge of medicine. A far healthier argument would be explaining the importance of moving people closer to their doctors, stripping away layers of bureaucracy and third-party payers, while restoring the true meaning of “insurance.” If Republicans don’t start making that argument soon – and forcing Democrats to respond to it – the window of political opportunity will be pulled to the Left, until the Left can finally nail it shut once and for all.