The Republican party this week was forced to come to grips with a campaign issue that they never, in their wildest dreams, thought would become a reality: the repeal of Obamacare.
During the fierce and ugly debate that took place in the summer of 2009, the Affordable Care Act — News flash! It’s the same thing as Obamacare! — was portrayed as government-run health care that would include “death panels” and bring the Republic as we know it to an end. Old folks, their Medicare cards safely tucked away in their wallets, railed against the idea of government health care. The Republicans gleefully stoked the fires and whipped people into an anti-Obama frenzy that eventually spawned the Tea Party.
Armed with their Fox News “facts,” those same old folks now toted signs that decried anything and everything Obama was doing, without regard for what it was, who had started it, or whether they were really event against it. They protested against their own caricature version of Barack Obama, complete with horns and glowing red eyes … or a Hitler toothbrush mustache.
Eventually, Obamacare became nothing more than a campaign issue. Republicans never gave a moment’s thought to how they would replace it. In fact, repealing Obamacare was never important to them, because by repealing it, they would rob themselves of a powerful weapon. It was a one-size-fits-all club to wield against a Democratic opponent.
Yes, they held their symbolic votes to repeal Obamacare, but they knew they need have no plan to replace it because it would likely never get past the Senate, let alone President Obama’s desk, and even if it did, the issue of replacement would be laid squarely at Obama’s feet, and of course, they would just oppose everything he came up with. Just say no. It was not necessary for Republicans to put any effort whatsoever into developing a replacement.
When the summer of 2016 arrived and Republicans found themselves with Donald Trump as their nominee, even those who had said the most insulting things about Trump, his mental stability (or lack thereof) and his understanding of how government works, rallied around him. After all, he was running on the repeal of Obamacare. Furthermore, it was just another symbolic act. Trump was never going to win. Therefore, their obstruction and constant criticism of the administration could make a smooth transition from Obama to Hillary. The Republicans needed to do nothing. They certainly didn’t need to spend any time developing a viable alternative to Obamacare, because Obamacare wasn’t going anywhere.
But now, as so many others have observed, the Republicans are like the dog who caught the car. And they’re scrambling to figure out what to do with it.
Not to worry. They have a plan. They will repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time. There. That’s your plan. I’m sure if you need to make an appointment with your doctor, they will accept that as readily as they will accept an insurance card.
The Republicans are quite fond of waxing eloquent on what “the American people want.” They’re all about looking out for the American people. Don’t the American people have a right to know what Trump and the Republicans plan to replace Obamacare with? This is our healthcare, the healthcare of our children and our loved ones. Often it’s quite literally a matter of life and death. But they can’t even tell us what the plan is? Are we now going to operate in Donald Trump mode from now on, where “Believe me, okay?” substitutes for real information?
On January 4th, using his megaphone of choice, Twitter, Donald Trump put out a message to his fellow Republicans: “Republicans must be careful in that the Dems own the failed ObamaCare [sic] disaster.”
No, Donald, I’m afraid the response to that, as you are so fond of saying, is, “Wrong!” When you take control of the United States Government on January 20, 2017, you, sir, will own Obamacare. You will be tasked with the responsibility of developing a replacement.
There’s a big difference between campaigning and governing, and Trump has yet to understand that. Whether he will grasp the enormity of it on January 20th at noon remains to be seen. Frankly, I doubt it. He is likely to be far more concerned with what Meryl Streep is saying about him or whining that no one protested Obama’s inauguration or trying to make us believe that the entertainment at the inaugural balls — like Marie Osmond — is A-list.
Meanwhile, perhaps the Republicans, as they did on January 20, 2009, will huddle in secret and plot ways to ensure that Donald Trump is a one-term president.