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The Politics of Repeal

Charles Kesler's lead editorial in the new issue of the Claremont Review of Books appears today on Real Clear Politics.  In it, Kesler takes up the question of what conservatives must do if some version of Obamacare does manage to pass through the Senate.  Though not a foregone conclusion, it seems likely that something called "Health Care Reform" will be put into force with the most partisan majority ever to advance a major piece of social legislation.  The notion that such a thing, once passed, must be accepted as the new reality is--as Kesler ably demonstrates--preposterous.

While it is a fair to point out that new entitlement legislation, once enacted, has proven near impossible to retract or even scale back, Kesler shows why the situation in this case may be very different.  The first point has to do with the extreme partisan nature of the thing--which makes this move unprecedented.  The second point has to do with the fact that "battles to reverse public policy considered unfair, unwise, and unconstitutional are a storied part of American history" and have often proved successful.  Finally, our fiscal woes have forced even the most spend-thrift of Democrats to concede that there must be some show of an attempt to pay for these reforms.  This means that there is likely to be a significant delay between the time of new taxing and the doling out of new benefits.  This last piece of information ought to be especially heartening to conservatives and a cause for bolstering their courage to rise up against an already unpopular plan.  It is not likely to become more popular as we spend more and get less . . .
Categories > Health Care

Discussions - 8 Comments

This situation may indeed be different.

Recalling that Team Obama stated that unemployment wouldn't exceed 8% if the Stimulus was passed, the country simply won't trust Democrats by the time the thing needs to be repealed. Besides, unemployment except perhaps in low-level service sector jobs will remain high as a direct result of the Stimulus.

Every 25 years or so, the country goes through the disaster of electing a silly liberal. Four years of it will be enough this time, too.

Yes I think that a repeal of an ObamaCare-lite health insurance plan is possible but only under certain conditions and even then I don't care for the odds. Conservatives being determined to fight for a repeal as a higher salience issue than fighting pork or cutting corporate taxes. Not that the goals should be abandoned, just that repealing ObamaCare will take alot more rhetorical time and energy that conservatives have devoted to healthcare policy than...ever.

But how conservative fight for the repeal will also matter. The public should be reminded of every penny of new taxes that went into the program, but ObamaCare will likely have other, less direct costs. It will probably drive up premiums in the individual and business health insurance markets. Conservatives should lay every premium hike on ObamaCare. They should spare no effort to remind every voter who faces such a hike who is at fault.

But that won't be enough either. Liberals will use those same hike to try to prove the evil or private health insurance and the need for a government monopoly on health insurance for the middle and working-classes. Conservatives will have to be clear and articulate in offering policies that will save those same middle and working-class folks real money. The message will have to be ObamaCare cost you more money, ObamaCare Plus will cost even more and give you worse service and we will save you money.

The not-so-horrible news is that whatever actually passes won't quite destroy the private health insurance market in the very short term. It will just make it a worse deal for most people. This is important because if the private health insurance market is destroyed as a real option for the middle and working-classes, it is tough to see how conservatives win a repeal. In that period between the passage of ObamaCare-Lite and the destruction of the private health insurance market, conservatives will have to convince a wide majority that moving to a set of market-oriented health insurance policies is not only preferable but urgent.

If ObamaCare-Lite passes, it will seem unlikely that the combination of elements needed to overturn ObamaCare (a pro-repeal majority in the House of Reps, a 60 vote majority in the Senate, and President who won't veto the repeal in the White House) will ever happen. The hope must be that if conservatives can win the debate, the Republicans make enough gains, and opportunistic Democrats get scared enough, the seemingly impossible might become possible. Thats kind of what happened with welfare reform

Yea, repeal. I'm not betting on it under any circumstances. The only way that might happen is if there is a tidal wave of conservativism that sweeps in truly conservative legislators (in sufficient mass). Don't see that happening...sorry. Once the taxes and the bureaucracy are in place, we're stuck with it.

I am wondering if a better bet might not be the Supreme Court. The unconstitutional aspects of ObamaCare are evident, and although conservatives usually shy away from having the Court overturn enqacted legislation, we are (as was mentioned) treading on very new ground here.

I'm sorry, but having read your blog each day I'm finally moved to reply, or at least to pose a couple of questions. I understand that at least one of the functions of this blog is to allow those who feel disenfranchised a place to emote, but that's no excuse for the sort of unclear and scattergun remarks that I've read in recent days.

Julie, by WHAT standards is this "the most partisan majority ever to advance a major piece of social legislation"? Think back to the early days of the Bush presidency or to much of the Regan presidency. I understand that you may not LIKE the majority that's currently in power, but that's not sufficient grounds for the sorts of claims you like to make.

Ditto Mechelle. You don't like what you dub Obamacare. Fine. But that doesn't mean you can say things like "the unconstitutional aspects of ObamaCare are evident" and expect people to accept it.

As a life long liberal, I entirely support the holding of minority opinions, as some here do - see your recent postings about climate change - but when minority opinion becomes hysterical and fantastical outbursting, that's another matter.

There are smart people who write on this blog; don't become just another bunch of right wing lunatics.

"Think back to the early days of the Bush presidency or to much of the Regan presidency."

I'm trying to. What did either president try to force through that was as partisan as Obama's health care reform and Cap and Tax? The first major piece of legislation passed under Bush II was "No Child Left Behind," which represented a huge increase in education spending, and which had bipartisan support. Under Reagan I guess tax reform was fairly controversial, but Reagan only had a slim majority in the Senate (the Democrats controlled the House) and he even lost that in 1986. In other words, Reagan always had to reach out to Democrats to get what he wanted.

Umm . . . by the standard that no Republicans (other than a few wobbly ones) support it. Or, if you don't like that standard, then how about the standard that the vast majority of the American public does not support it? Who supports this? Liberal Democrats. Is it not the very incarnation of partisanship, then, to act on it? They have the majority in government now and so it is a fact that they can do what they want. But majorities change . . . and it is always a good idea to remember that when dealing with what you perceive to be a minority . . . And YP is right about Reagan and Bush. They did that. Sometimes (as, especially with Bush) it did them a fat lot of good. But they did it.

Charles Kesler is right on the money.

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