Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Obamacare Didn’t Pave The Way For Donald Trump, The Gop’s Response To It Did

Ezra Klein wrote one of the best articles I've seen in a while, Obamacare didn’t pave the way for Donald Trump. The GOP’s response to it did.

There are two ways to look at Obamacare. One is that it was more or less American politics working as it's supposed to.

Democrats won two wave elections in a row and amassed a tremendous amount of political power. That done, they turned to their top priority: health reform. They recognized that their majority, though large, wasn't particularly liberal, and in a bid to win over both moderate Democrats and Republicans, they abandoned their single-payer dreams and their public option hopes and crafted legislation based on Mitt Romney's successful, bipartisan Massachusetts reforms.

The final bill passed the House, passed the Senate, and was signed into law by the president. The vote fell on party lines, but then, most major votes these days fall on party lines. Obamacare is now covering about 20 million people at a cost lower than anyone anticipated. This is the political system doing its job in a polarized age.

But there's another popular narrative of Obamacare — that it was a hijacking of American politics in order to pass radical, unconstitutional legislation that forever transformed the country.

In this telling, Democrats won a hefty majority on a message of unity and moderation and then rammed socialized health care down the country's throat. They bought off interest groups, exploited parliamentary loopholes, and ignored the clear will of the people. The GOP's lockstep opposition was driven by the danger posed by the legislation and the corruption of the process. The Tea Party — which had its roots, remember, in the administration's housing policies, not in Obamacare — was a necessary reaction to the Democrats' unforgivable decision to use a transient majority to permanently reshape America.

Longtime readers won't be surprised to know I think the first narrative is basically true and the second narrative is rather overwrought. But the second narrative is widely believed on the right. It's what the Republican Party has been telling its voters for years. It's what Kraushaar is gesturing towards in his column. And I think there is reason to believe it's partly what's driving Trump.

The Republican Party could have reacted to Obamacare the way it, say, reacted to Medicare — and Medicare actually was a single-payer health care plan. But in that case, Republicans negotiated over the legislation, and 70 House Republicans and 13 Senate Republicans voted for the final bill.

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