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“GOP Failure Theater”: How Conservatives Convinced Themselves That Another ObamaCare Loss Is Just Prelude To Greater Victory

There’s a ritual carried out by losing candidates on election night, in which they come before their supporters gathered in a hotel ballroom, look out at all the long faces and tired eyes, and say, “This has been a noble crusade. And though we may have lost today, the battle for the things we believe in goes on. I’ll be there fighting for that vision, and I hope you’ll be there with me.” Everyone applauds, and then they all go home.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled against what was simultaneously the most absurd and the most threatening challenge to the Affordable Care Act, conservatives are enacting something similar to that election night ritual. In private, many are expressing relief, since there was widespread worry that if the King v. Burwell lawsuit had succeeded, they would have been responsible for at least six million Americans losing insurance subsidies, and quite appropriately gotten the blame for it. But what are they saying publicly?

The politicians are finding virtue in consistency; their line is that this changes nothing.

“Today’s ruling won’t change ObamaCare’s multitude of broken promises,” said Mitch McConnell.

“ObamaCare is fundamentally broken,” said John Boehner. “Today’s ruling doesn’t change that fact.”

“Today’s ruling makes it clear that if we want to fix our broken healthcare system, then we will need to elect a Republican president,” said RNC chair Reince Priebus, who also made the fascinating observation that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be terrible for America.

Naturally, conservatives are disgusted with Chief Justice Roberts, whom they regard as an unreliable ally, unlike Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. Quin Hillyer of the National Review summed up their feelings: “He is a disgrace. That is all.” But as far as conservative commentators are concerned, the perfidy extends beyond the Supreme Court to the cowards and quislings in Congress. And so, in a particularly optimistic strain of thought, they’re arguing that the decision is really an excellent outcome.

That’s because it has saved the right from another round of what blogger Allahpundit calls “GOP failure theater,” in which Republicans in Congress “make a pretense of putting up a fight in hopes that conservative voters will be impressed and to obtain some sort of mostly meaningless concession to wave at them when the inevitable, and predestined, cave finally happens.”

Similarly, Ben Domenech argues that the decision is a good thing for conservatives, because now Republican candidates will have to come up with really good health care plans to enact when they take back the White House: “Thus, I think the ruling today probably increases the likelihood of repealing ObamaCare in 2017 by a not insignificant margin.” On a similar note, Bill Kristol tweeted, “Repeal of ObamaCare and replacement with limited-government alternative in 2017 will be one of modern conservatism’s finest hours.”

That presumes that the Republican nominee will win, of course. But it also presumes that he would have the ability and willingness to repeal the ACA upon taking office.

There’s no question that the Republican presidential candidates will continue to express their eagerness to do so, at least until we get to the general election. Though none of them has anything resembling a fully-formed plan for the “replace” part of “repeal and replace” that Republicans have been advocating for years, they still have to pay lip service to the idea that the consensus conservative health care plan is coming any day now. When you’ve spent the last five years arguing that this law is a poison-tipped dagger plunging into liberty’s heart, you can’t just say, “Eh, looks like we’ll live with it,” no matter what the practical reality might be.

The practical reality is that whatever public opinion may be about this large abstraction called “ObamaCare,” the law is delivering particular benefits of which Americans are quite fond and that they don’t want to lose. Taking away those subsidies through a lawsuit would have been a political disaster for Republicans, and that would have affected only a portion of the public. What if Republicans were to take away subsidies from people in all 50 states, and toss millions more off Medicaid, and make it so that now insurance companies can deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition again? That’s what repealing the ACA would mean. Republicans may not be able to admit it, as they promise that their phantom alternative plan would take care of all that, but they know that just undoing the ACA would be a disaster.

They can’t acknowledge that fact, because they have a constituency that has been fed heaping plates of apocalyptic rhetoric on this issue ever since the ACA became law. Those Republican base voters need to be told that, though they’ve suffered a loss, the fight is not over. As Ted Kennedy said 35 years ago in what may be the prototypical example of that losing candidate’s speech to his dismayed supporters, “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributing Writer, The Week, June 25, 2015

June 26, 2015 - Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, GOP | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. A few comments – I agree the verdict is not a surprise as articulated by the Chief Justice. Further, as noted above, the ACA is working pretty well under multiple measures and sources, even though improvements are needed. Also, not only do Americans favor the component parts (except for the needed mandate) when the name or nickname is not used, but those in favor use terms like “it saved my life” or “kept us out of bankruptcy” which hold greater meaning than “my premiums went up,” which had happened for some without a subsidy who had a policy. But , one thing those policies likely did not have was guaranteed issue and renewability feature. These comments of ” being a disaster” have little basis and Boehner and McConnell should know that. By the way, McConnell and Rand’s fellow Kentuckians love Obamacare, because they use the term KyNect instead.


    Comment by btg5885 | June 26, 2015 | Reply

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