Repealing Obamacare Could Spur Much-Needed Bipartisanship

Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate,” President Trump tweeted last week. “Dems will join in!”

Much as so many Americans like to denigrate the president’s freewheeling Twitter commentary, in this case I believe he is on to something. His advice, if followed, could be a game changer in terms of both healthcare and the toxic political environment we find ourselves in. Let me explain.

Now, I do not discount the possibility that Senate Republicans will ultimately pull themselves together and vote to pass a comprehensive plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Remember, the House of Representatives had enormous difficulty in passing a similar bill, but it got done. That it was hard work should come as a surprise to no one. Every congressman and senator is holding out for the best possible deal, as he or she sees it. That’s just political gamesmanship. No one should dismiss the possibility, therefore, that the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously will still succeed.

But, supposing that “repeal and replace” really is dead in the water, Trump’s plan for repealing now and replacing later has considerable merit.

Of all its potential advantages, though, I want to concentrate on only one: repealing Obamacare now, and presenting Democrats with a fait accompli, is the best way to confront them with the fact that Obamacare really is dead, and starting over is a necessity. It is thus also the best way to convince them to participate in creating a new and better health care plan.

Any conservative will tell you that getting rid of Obamacare has been a necessity, in terms of the national interest, for a long time. That may be true. Politically, though, Democrats are under huge pressure from their fanatically Leftist base to preserve the existing law, for a number of reasons: it is part of President Obama’s (tattered) legacy; it expands access to health care for many Democratic constituents; and, philosophically and practically, it expands government, and what Leftist doesn’t jump for joy whenever government swells in size and power?

Not surprisingly, every Democrat in the House and Senate has so far voted against the Republicans’ bills to repeal and replace Obamacare. Whatever they may think of Obamacare itself, and some must realize its manifold flaws, politically they cannot afford to anger the Democratic base, which loves Obamacare.

But imagine if congressional Republicans followed Trump’s advice and voted to repeal Obamacare in a way that takes effect in, say, 2019 or 2020. Trump would sign the bill, and instantly the political landscape would change.

No longer could Democrats portray their obstructionism as a defense of Obamacare. Obamacare would be history. Democrats and Republicans alike would thus have to turn the page and ask themselves: after Obamacare’s demise, what comes next? Surely, something would come next. It could be something hammered out by Republicans, working alone, no doubt with great difficulty but with a sense of urgency, since Americans do expect some assistance from the federal government in meeting their health care needs.

But it’s much more likely that, instead of Republicans working alone to replace Obamacare in the next two or three years, responsible, moderate Democrats would join them. They would want to put their stamp on “Trumpcare,” as it may eventually be called, and the Republican leadership is likely to welcome Democrats to the table, because passing a replacement health care plan would be immensely difficult, as it has been up to now, without bipartisan agreement.

The long-term result of following Trump’s advice on health care, therefore—of repealing now, and replacing later—may be not only better health care but conducive to more bipartisanship in Washington, something that has been depressingly rare ever since the contentious Clinton years.

Simply put, the shibboleth of Obamacare, alternately adored and despised by millions of Americans, will have been obliterated, and freed of that mythical construct we will all see health care with fresh eyes. Democrats and Republicans may even find that, in cobbling together a new plan, they are in agreement much of the time on what needs to be done. (That, frankly, is already the case.) For those who think this is pie in the sky, consider all the Democrats who voted to confirm various Trump nominees, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. That is a beginning, but much more can be done.

Sometimes, to make progress after a long period of deadlock and recrimination, the old conversation needs to be set aside and a new one begun. Trump’s tweet suggests how this could be accomplished, and how Congress and the president can start governing again. It’s worth a try, is it not?


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About Nicholas L. Waddy

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com. He appears on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480/106.9.