October 2, 2013


The Ongoing Health-Care Debate (Yuval Levin, 10/02/13, National Review)

Republicans did not do nearly well enough in the last election to enact legislation that would repeal Obamacare. In order to repeal that law and attempt an effective reform of our health-care system along conservative lines, they will need to do better in the next election and the one to follow. To that end, they can take several kinds of steps with regard to Obamacare in the meantime: steps that would weaken the law (by highlighting its faults or disabling some of its elements) and ultimately make it easier to replace; steps that would weaken the law's supporters (by further connecting them to the law in the public's mind and forcing them to defend its least popular elements) and ultimately make them easier to replace; and steps that would strengthen the law's opponents (by clearly identifying them as opponents of an unpopular measure and champions of a more appealing approach) and help them gain more public support. 

In my view (shared with all who would listen to no avail, for what it's worth) the original defund strategy was not well suited to doing any of these things. The members pursuing that strategy seemed to realize that this past weekend -- essentially every House Republican voted for temporary budget bills that would have funded Obamacare, in pursuit of more strategic objectives. The bill they ended up with Monday night, which would have avoided a shutdown by delaying Obamacare's individual mandate and denying members of Congress and their staffs an exemption from the part of the law that applied to their own health coverage, involved all three of the above approaches to some extent: highlighting some of Obamacare's least popular elements and Republican opposition to them and forcing every red-state Democrat running for reelection to explain in the coming campaign season a vote to shut down the government to protect Congress's health coverage and the individual mandate. 

The shutdown itself is not a catastrophe, though it achieves nothing and should have been avoided. Shutting down 40 percent or so of the federal government won't have immediate implications in the lives of most Americans, at least at first. The president's dire warnings yesterday were, like his warnings about the direct effects of the sequester cuts, exaggerated and misguided. But the expectations of some Republicans that a shutdown would bring a public uprising in opposition to Obamacare were surely even more misguided. Both sets of expectations assume the federal government is at the center of Americans' lives and is the focus of their attention, and it just isn't. That's a good thing, and conservatives more than anyone should remember that.

The urgency underlying the defund efforts of the past few weeks was itself also driven in part by a view of the American public that is unbecoming of conservatives. 

Posted by at October 2, 2013 7:15 PM

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