One thing that never ceases to amaze is the Republican Party’s uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
When the Democrats have control of the levers of power they work ruthlessly to get their agenda passed, even if it means using arcane budget rules to pass a health care bill with a simple majority in the Senate, the contents of which were so secret we were told they would have to “pass the bill to see what was in it”.
Contrast this hard-charging, take-no-prisoners approach with the feckless manner in which the Republicans have failed to follow through on their most basic and central campaign promise of the last three election cycles.
Despite six years to plan, and voting to fully or partially repeal Obamacare more than 60 times while Obama was in office, the best Republicans could muster after gaining control of all three houses was a watered-down House version of Obamacare. By covering pre-existing conditions, the reform bill cements into place the entitlement program the Democrats strove to create in the first place.
Risk is a prerequisite to the concept of insurance; in the absence of risk, there is no need for insurance. By covering pre-existing conditions, both Obamacare and the Republicans’ proposed replacements remove this essential component from the equation. An “insurance” policy that covers pre-existing conditions, is, by definition, no longer insurance – it’s an entitlement. This is why the Democrats, despite their caterwauling about the changes proposed, are so smug – if the health care reform bill passes with this provision in place, they’ve won the fundamental, philosophical battle, which guarantees no matter what the Republicans do going forward, our health care system is doomed to end up a variant of socialized medicine.
How is it the Republicans fail to grasp this simple fact? Why are they so eager to renege on their promises to the voters that got them elected? There are numerous reasons, but I think there are three primary ones. I’m going to leave aside the most obvious and cynical: that they’re politicians and as such are all lying bastards who will say anything to get elected.
Most elected Republicans don’t understand and/or don’t believe that free markets actually work
The first reason the Republicans can’t follow through on their promise to repeal Obamacare is the majority of them either don’t understand free market economics or they have an understanding but don’t really believe free markets work. Consider George W’s now infamous line “we had to abandon free market principles in order to save the free market.” Oh sure, we hear them pay lip service to free market solutions and competition all the time, but that just sounds good during the campaign. When push comes to shove, most elected Republican officials are all for government intervention in the marketplace, just as they almost always seem to be for more taxes and more spending, in spite of claims to the contrary.
America was built on free market capitalism. Free markets are very powerful, very effective and very efficient. History has shown again and again the freer a particular market or industry is, the greater the benefit to consumers. The tech sector is largely unregulated and churns out advances at a truly dizzying pace. Why? Because aside from the usual alphabet soup regulatory agencies (which I oppose), they aren’t saddled by industry specific regulations about how their products should work or how much they are allowed to charge for them.
Imagine what would happen to the tech sector if D.C. decided to tell companies what products they could sell, to whom they could sell them and where they could sell them. Tech innovation would come to a standstill. Alternately, imagine if health care were set free of regulation, and insurance companies were allowed to sell what their customers actually wanted, wherever they wanted. Just allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines would dramatically reduce costs to the consumer, but that provision isn’t in any of the proposed reforms. Never mind the Constitution contains this thing called the interstate Commerce Clause that exists for just this type of reason – the Republicans dare not risk running afoul of the insurance lobby.
Critics of free market health care reforms will say that health insurance is different – that there must be government regulation because it’s an issue of life or death. Newsflash: eating is an issue of life or death, but the Feds don’t tell grocery stores where they can open, what they can sell and how much they can charge for it. We’d have all starved to death long ago if they did.
The simple fact is government meddling increases costs, and government price controls always result in shortages. Most of the health care “crisis” would probably be solved in less than a year if the government would just get the hell out of the way.
Most elected Republicans accept the moral premise that “need” constitutes a right
Even if an elected Republican understands and believes free markets work, the next hurdle to overcome is the notion that need constitutes a “right”. The commonly held premise that government is obligated to take care of people in need through the use of “social safety nets” makes it nigh impossible for Republicans to take the moral high ground when defending a health care system based on free market principles.
Unfortunately, this is the one issue, perhaps more than any other, where it is essential you have the moral high ground – we are, after all, talking about issues of life or death. If you truly believe that one man’s misfortune (illness) is a claim on the rest of society, and society is obligated to take care of them, then you will not be able to defend free market health care consistently – or a free market for any other industry for that matter.
“To each according to his need, from each according to his ability,” is the famous quote from Karl Marx. That statement is the philosophical underpinning of the political system known as socialism. Ask any modern day Republican if they’re a fan of Marx or socialism and they will scoff. Yet the reality is, they are promoting that system, whether they realize it or not. The proof is in the Obamacare lite pudding.
The above-described confusion is the reason the Democrats have controlled the narrative on health care. The Democrats repeatedly throw out the same old tired arguments, Republicans are only looking out for the rich, the Republican proposals will leave people out in the street without care, etc. If you’re a Republican who believes we are our brother’s keeper, you’re going to have an aversion to talking about that issue because you accept the basic premise. When two parties hold the same basic premise, the more consistent of the two always wins the debate. The Democrats win the consistency war hands down – they completely accept that need constitutes a right, they want a socialized health care system, and they really mean it. The speed with which they put their agenda through post 2008 election is the proof.
They think they will get away with failing to follow through on their campaign promises
We’ve seen this movie again and again – Republicans campaign as conservatives in the primary when it suits them, and then run to the middle in the general election. It works. They get elected, and then promptly default on the vast majority of campaign promises. Oh sure, you might get some window dressing legislation or votes, but in regarding cutting spending or taxes, or making substantial reforms, there usually isn’t a whole lot of difference between what they do and what the Democrat would have done.
I live in Florida. Republicans control all three houses of state government, yet spending keeps going up, we give away tens of millions each year in corporate welfare, and we still have a state subsidized home insurance program called Citizens. I didn’t know picking winners and losers in business and being in the insurance business were functions of government, but who I am to point out such things?
Here’s the kicker though: once elected, they tend to stay that way. We have term limits in Florida, but it doesn’t seem to matter – my state house rep started in the state legislature years ago, moved to the Senate, termed out, and was just elected in 2016 as a state rep again. If you were to look up the terms “RINO” or “career politician” in the dictionary you would find a picture of him – the guy always votes for more spending and never met a tax he didn’t like. Nevertheless, we keep putting him back in there because he’s pro-life and pro-gun, he’s a good family man, and he’s got as much money as he needs when campaign season rolls around. The spigots flow freely when your vote is for sale to the highest bidder.
The second part of this last point is that once elected, there is a tendency to be sucked into the DC bubble. Instead of listening to the constituents who elected them, they end up listening to leadership, consultants, and special interest groups. They become convinced that “we the (little) people” don’t really know what’s best, and go with the flow in the bubble. As I mentioned earlier, for many of them this works, and they get re-elected. Sadly, I fear this won’t be true at the macro level in the next cycle. If they fail to repeal Obamacare, they are setting themselves up for a shellacking, and it’s because those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
As you will recall, the signature issue of the 2012 presidential cycle, as it was in 2016, was Obamacare. Despite the obvious fact most Republicans and many independents were not fans of socialized medicine, the Republicans put up the one guy – the ONLY guy in the entire field of candidates – who socialized medicine in his home state. We got to choose between Obamacare and Obamacare lite. Result? Lower Republican turnout than we saw for McCain in 2008 – and McCain was a truly awful candidate, so that’s saying something. What did the Republicans learn from 2012? Not a damned thing from what I can see.
If the Republicans fail to repeal Obamacare wholesale, the people that voted for these officials aren’t going to show up at the polls in 2018. Why should they? They’ve been promised a repeal for SIX years, and they held up their end of the deal – the Republicans are in complete control. Does anyone seriously think the argument that we need MORE Republicans to get the job done will fly when we already control all three houses? There are no more excuses.
Compounding the turnout problem will be the absence of grassroots support for these officials in their individual races. Many of these people were elected because they had a tremendous amount of volunteer help from Tea Partiers and other groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus, whose volunteers worked like dogs to get them elected so they could finally see an end put to this monstrosity. If the Republicans think they’re going to have any sort of grassroots support after saddling us with a version of Obamacare by a different name, they are sorely mistaken. True seismic shifts like the Tea Party phenomenon are rare, but I have to think if the Republicans get this wrong, not only will you see grassroots support and donations completely dry up, you will see a mass defection from the party.
Love him or hate him, the fact Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election is proof positive that voters did not want more business as usual in Washington DC; for most, a vote for Trump was a vote against the status quo. Yet Republican leadership continues to play the game by the old rules – backroom deals, putting bills up for a vote without giving anyone time to read them, and then threatening those who don’t go along with the proposed suicide with a primary challenger. The pain they will feel in 2018 and beyond won’t be inflicted by the Democrats – who have nothing better to offer – it will be inflicted by their own failure to follow through on the promises.
As I finish writing this, all versions of the Senate reform bill have failed, including a vote on the same straight repeal that the Republicans voted on under Obama. The Republicans were seven votes short, and six of them voted for the exact same repeal bill under Obama. There is no excuse for this, and I hope they pay a price for this when they’re up for re-election, but as I mentioned above, they almost always seem to be re-elected no matter what promises they break or how awful their voting record.
Frederick Douglass once said, “Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they have resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they suppress.”
I have reached the limit of my endurance for liars and broken promises. Have you? We must resist and replace these lying RINOs. What are you prepared to do? What specific action will you take?
Me? I think I’m going to go primary a certain Florida House Representative…