Republicans are finding that repealing Obamacare is more difficult than they expected. Now, they’re starting to talk about “repair” instead of “repeal.” They should have done so a long time ago and the ACA would be a better program than it is today and Americans would have benefited.
The GOP has already said that pre-existing conditions won’t deter people from getting insurance again. One GOP Senator said that lifetime caps will not come back and that adult children will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26 years old. And Kellyanne Conway assured us that nobody who received insurance under Obamacare will lose it.
The most interesting article I’ve read recently about the Affordable Care Act, though, was not written recently but written by a Republican almost seven years ago when the ACA first passed in March 2010. David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote a critique of bill, predicting that Republicans would never repeal it. His insight is invaluable.
Not only does he lay out the problems the GOP will have repealing the bill, he reminds us of a time when the legislative branch was a functioning body and the GOP had a moderate wing. He also lays out how Republican political decisions broke our system and how their strategy and tactics gave us Donald Trump. It’s a really a remarkable article both for its historical perspective and its foresight.
Frum correctly notes that the reason the GOP will have a hard time repealing Obamacare, as it came to be called, is because the tenets of the program are essentially Republican ideas. “…[T]he gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.”
The reason Republicans don’t have alternative to Obamacare is that Obamacare is their alternative. We’ve suffered seven years of political bluster only to learn that the GOP doesn’t want health care reform.
More importantly, though, Frum notes that when Republicans took control of the White House in 2000 and had majorities in both the House and Senate, Democrats worked with them to craft their tax cut bill, despite being vehemently opposed. Republicans made a different decision when they faced Obama and a Democratic Congress. They decided to obstruct, not compromise. The strategy lasted eight years and left Americans distrustful of their government.
Frum also epitomizes an endangered species: The moderate Republican. When he wrote the piece, some Republicans believed the country needed health care reform. As he says, “We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement…There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible.” Today, those moderate Republicans have largely been lost to primaries and gerrymandering.
Frum also saw how right-wing media outlets were driving the narrative more than politicians and inflaming the base to build support. As he put it, “By mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio.” Today, the leader of the country is a reality show star.
Frum’s article is remarkable because it was written at the moment our government began to cease to function. Mitch McConnell and his allies made a decision to obstruct instead of govern. They broke norms and traditions for political gain. They refused to compromise, they abused the filibuster, and they denied Obama an appointment to the Supreme Court. In the process, they fueled distrust in the system and disgust with the process. They ushered in the era of Trump.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant.