The notion that conservatives not only oppose liberal health-care reforms but are vigorously working to deny Americans access is a popular on the Left. If you don’t support Obamacare you are basically endorsing democide. This contemptible piece in
Salon The New Republic, which argues that Democrats should – without any evidence if necessary – blame the unfortunate deaths of Americans on the rival political party, is perhaps the pinnacle of this brand of absurd demagoguery. Alan Grayson mainstreamed.
Though it’s also the unspoken starting point for many pundits, including the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, who believes he’s detected a seismic shift within Republican ranks:
Republicans remain gung-ho for repeal, and continue to insist Obamacare is destroying the lives of millions, if not American freedom itself. And yet, Republican Senate candidates are increasingly sounding like Obamacare’s most ardent supporters in one key way: they are rhetorically embracing the imperative of expanding affordable health coverage to those who need it.
Two small problems with this contention: 1) It is possible – even reasonable – to deem Obamacare destructive policy and still support “expanding health coverage.” 2) The GOP has been using the exact same rhetoric Sargent points to from the beginning of the debate. And I mean exactly the same.
A majority of Americans believe that Obamacare is detrimental to the health-care system, yet, one assumes, many of them believe extending “health coverage” to everyone is a worthy cause. There are – and I realize this might be inconceivable to some – other systems that deliver affordable, quality services and products to lots and lots of people. Presumably, most of you have bought food or clothing without an individual mandate in a highly regulated government exchange? This kind of delivery system might seem excessively chaotic, antiquated or even unfair to you, but it’s worth mentioning that the moral objective of those who support competitive markets over contrived technocratic schemes, are probably just as good as yours.
Now, Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton’s recent comments – “We want every Arkansan, we want every American, to have quality, affordable access to health care” – were the grist for Sargent’s proposition that the GOP is in the midst of abandoning its position on Obamacare. Cotton was talking about Arkansas’ “private option” (you won’t be surprised to learn that the “private option” equals “government option”) that allows needy Arkansans to use federal Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance plans. If Cotton has a more affordable way to deal with the uninsured in his state, he should offer his proposals. If he believes the “private option” is unsustainable cronyism, he should say so. But the only possible reasons someone could believe Cotton’s words are “increasingly sounding like Obamacare’s most ardent supporters” is that you haven’t been paying attention to the debate.
Ok, not the only reason. Liberals like Sargent are trying to create the perception that there is a widespread capitulation among conservatives on the “big idea” leading up to the 2014 midterms. Obamacare, fait accompli. But Republicans (and I think they’re misguided) have never argued about the big idea. The GOP has never been able to settle on a set of reforms due to well-known internal differences. Rhetorically, though they’ve been using the same exact formulation as Cotton does.
In 2009, at the height of the Obamacare debate all Republicans were rhetorically embracing the imperative of expanding affordable health:
Roy Blunt: “Make quality health care coverage affordable and accessible for every American.”
John Boehner presser: “Boehner, House GOP Outline Plan to Make Health Care More Affordable & Accessible for All Americans.”
Dave Camp at CNN.com: “These and other measures will ensure every American, regardless of income, regardless of where they choose to live, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illness, will have access to affordable, quality health care.”
Paul Ryan’s plan to replace employer-provided health insurance with a refundable tax credit available to every American was, as Akiv Roy pointed out at the time, in essence, a call for universal coverage. Even the more conservative plan offered by the Republican Study Committee promised tax reform that “allows families and individuals to deduct health care costs, just like companies, leveling the playing field and providing all Americans with a standard deduction for health insurance. “
Workable? That’s another debate. Rhetorically embracing the big idea? Yes.
There are other candidates saying equally predictable things. Sargent (and others), for example, point to Michigan candidate Terri Lynn Land, who repeats the idea that: “healthcare should be affordable and accessible to all Americans and that we as a society have a moral obligation to help those who are not as fortunate.” This might be revelatory rhetoric if you haven’t met a single religious person in your entire life. Otherwise, it’s pretty standard rhetoric on the social conservative end of things. If the Left stopped believing its own ghoulish caricatures of conservatives, they’d know that, as well.
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