Over/Under: Years Before Republicans Start to Claim Credit For Obamacare

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The Heritage Plan: 1989.

All citizens should be guaranteed universal access to affordable health care.

Many states now require passengers in automobiles to wear seatbelts for their own protection. Many others require anybody driving a car to have liability insurance. But neither the federal government nor any state requires all households to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of a serious accident or illness. Under the Heritage plan, there would be such a requirement.

Romneycare and Obamacare architect Jonathon Gruber.

[W]hat about when Romney says his law is different from Obamacare? “The problem is there is no way to say that, because they’re the same f***ing bill. He just can’t have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying. The only big difference is he didn’t have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes.”

Ezra Klein’s new website Vox was the subject of much ridicule from the right following publication of an article titled Kathleen Sebelius is resigning because Obamacare has won.

The Obamacare victory declaration by Vox was not intended as a statement on the success of the law for perpetuity, or even to say that the law was a political winner for Democrats going into the midterm elections. The victory of Obamacare as described by the article is in it’s very survival.

From the initial debate over health care reform right up until this moment the law has been fought tooth and nail by Republicans. The Vox article declares, correctly, that Obamacare has won simply by not being strangled to death in the crib. With 7.5 million Americans now enrolled in the program there is no viable path allowing Republicans to repeal the law.

The Vox article was not so bold as to predict that the law would prove to be a political benefit for its supporters going forward, but I don’t mind going there. There is a reason Republican strategists are counseling their party to not put all their eggs in the Obamacare opposition basket for the 2014 midterms. Rabid opposition to Obamacare may have been a great tactic to rile up the base in 2010, but it did not have the same effect in 2012. As the law gains in popularity, running against it will return less rewards and eventually prove to be a liability.

Understanding the fundamentally dishonest approach of Republicans to the political process, I predict they will try to claim credit for the passage of Obamacare, and we will see the opening moves on the switch sooner than later. I would put the over/under line on the number of years until Republicans start trying to claim credit for Obamacare at 3 years. On that line, they won’t try it during the 2016 general election, but the 2018 midterms could show the 1st signs of an amazing attempt at Republican/Obamacare jujitsu.

I expect this would be shown as Republicans maintaining opposition to the law in general terms, but claiming credit for the laws effects on covering local constituencies and other positive outcomes in the local markets due to Obamacare. Eventually any opposition to the law from the right will be extremely vague in nature while maintaining steadfast support for the fundamental components that will become more and more popular as time passes. Over time any semblance of opposition to the law will be long forgotten.

Further, Republicans will have a kernel of truth to their claims. President Obama and Democrats did base Obamacare on conservative ideas which were championed by Republicans for decades prior to Obama’s election and first enacted into law by a Republican governor. The individual mandate is the conservative answer to the liberal proposal of a single payer system.  With a kernal of truth to the claim, massive amounts of cash on hand to spread the word, and being past masters at message manipulation to their under informed audience, the Republicans flip on Obamacare could actually prove very effective. 

It may seem laughable to imagine Republicans claiming to be the champions of Obamacare as of the writing of this post. Before laughing too hard just consider that one does not need a very long memory to recall that Republicans universally claimed to be vehemently opposed to passage of a recent initiative, while taking credit for the implementation of said policy.

Remember the heat and fury over the stimulus program in 2009? Even as Republicans yammered and howled about the supposed failure of the program, they went to their districts and had photo ops holding the symbolic checks, and cut the ribbons on the construction projects funded by the stimulus. They loudly protest, claiming that not one job could be created by the federal government, even as behind the scenes they send letters to the administration pleading for federal funds to be sent to their districts with the express intent of creating jobs for their constituents.

I believe the likelihood that Republicans maintain their current position is inversely related to the popularity of the law. Considering the manipulation of facts and history to comport to the conservative point of view, do not be surprised if decades from now they fondly recall the good old days when Obamacare was passed despite the fierce opposition of the Democratic congress and a president who was dead set against the health care reforms that past generations of conservatives struggled to implement for the good of the nation.

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