By Clark S. Judge: managing director, White House Writers Group; chairman, Pacific Research InstituteWell, there is one thing you can say about Obamacare.
Yes, it reflects the kind of “sweep away everything to impose our vision of the ultimate good on everyone” mentality that we all loved so much about the Soviet Union. But it took the Soviet Union 75 years to fall of its own weight. It looks as though even before it officially kicks in on January 1st, Obamacare will have achieved that inevitable fruit of hubris on steroids.
Or to switch historical analogies, is not a tragedy unfolding similar to what Edmund Burke lamented in the French Revolution? In the name of the common good, a tribune of virtue has aspired to sweep away all the dense networks of community and custom that comprise healthcare in the United States. Meanwhile, millions of Americans, including, for example, cancer patients, have been ripped from their established doctors and other caregivers, clusters you might call, after Burke, little platoons of service or, more clinically, effective personal treatment networks.
As a replacement what is our tribune offering? Those who are fighting for their lives may find themselves trundled to a guillotine of bureaucratic fumbling and delay. Isn’t this the consequence of that famous lie: “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. Period. If you like your doctor, you can keep him. Period.” Meanwhile, we were all told that we were getting more coverage for less money. Now it turns out, according to a Heritage Foundation study (http://herit.ag/1aIYDxd) almost everyone in almost every state will see insurance premiums shoot up. In Virginia, which just elected an Obamare advocate as governor, the jump will be 179% for a family of four, 253% for a 27-year-old young person.
But here is a question. Imagine you are sitting in the White House, looking at the meltdown. Yes, it’s alarming. Are you all that worried? Your big goal is the 2014 election. Based on the just concluded 2013 ballot, don’t you calculate that, while the situation is challenging, it is manageable?
The two big contests this time were the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia. Yes, the GOP won New Jersey, but the state never was in play. And of all Republican governors, Chris Christie has been by far the most friendly towards the president, arguably giving him a critical boost at a key moment in last year’s presidential campaign.
Besides, Virginia is a much better analog to the nation than New Jersey. For a decade now it has been as closely divided as America itself. Obamacare is as unpopular there as in the nation generally. But with dislike of the law on Election Day at what the White House must assume will prove its maximum moment, the Democrat still won. A full embracer of the president’s program, he beat one of the nation’s most vocal Obamacare critics, the state attorney general who initiated the now-failed suit challenging the law’s constitutionality.
The president clearly believes in federal domination of health financing and delivery. In politics you take risks with your popularity to back things you care about. Mr. Obama took that risk, and at the moment, he would be right to feel he has won.
Not only did he win in Virginia, but the way Mr. McAuliffe achieved victory must give Mr. Obama confidence that he can prevail in the 2014 House and Senate battles, as well.
I am not talking about McAuliffe’s smash-mouth ads of the summer and the overwhelming dollar advantage. Those took their toll, but more critical was the GOP’s splintering. We all know that the some libertarians broke off in one direction. Less noticed, a group of so-called establishment Republicans appears to have broken off in the other.
With both, social issues may have been key drivers. Some say the easy solution is to nominate a moderate candidate who is wishy-washy on those questions. But if the party does that, social conservatives are likely to break off or at least stay home, as happened in Ohio during last year’s presidential voting, costing Mitt Romney the state.
In other words, if you were in the White House today, surveying the wreckage of your health care launch, you would still have to conclude that, in the races you care about for 2014, the Republicans are by and large likely to prove fatally fractured.
Obamacare may be an abomination and, at least for the moment, a failure. But unless the Republican Party and its natural affiliates can find peace among themselves, Obamacare will remain the law of the land.