Liberal journalists prostituting their reputations by defending the disastrous Obamacare rollout have been wailing that the real reason for HealthCare.gov’s failure is GOP sabotage. But there’s a huge difference between the tactic Republicans have been using—withdrawal of support—and the active interference of which Democrats accuse them.
Confusing inaction with action, Politico’s Todd Purdhum labeled the GOP’s restrained disapprobation “calculated sabotage.” He wrote that Republicans “kept up their crusade past the president’s reelection, in a pattern of ‘massive resistance’ not seen since the Southern states’ defiance of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.” (Someone needs to remind Purdhum that it was his party leading the segregationist charge.)
Purdhum complained, “Party leaders enforced discipline, withholding any support for the new law—which passed with only Democratic votes, thus undermining its acceptance”—as though voting against the opposition’s legislation represents some kind of heinous, borderline felonious tactic outside the bounds of legitimate governance. He decried Republican governors’ refusal to implement Obamacare exchanges, whining that the federal government was forced “to take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving 36 states—far more than ever intended.” Boo-hoo. Be glad all 57 states didn’t reject Obama.
Steve Benen approvingly cited an administration official saying, “You’re basically trying to build a complicated building in a war zone, because the Republicans are lobbing bombs at us.” Lobbing bombs? More like failing to provide gold-plated reinforcements rushed in by barefoot runners.
Washington Post reporters Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin sympathetically repeated the White House’s sobbing claim that it couldn’t bless states with its own calligraphic diagrams showing how to run a perfect state exchange, because big bad Republicans would “brandish” their charts to the media as the bureaucratic Rube Goldberg schemes they are.
Goldstein and Eilperin also reported that the White House suppressed the number of states refusing to set up their own exchanges and relying on the federal exchange, claiming that Republicans would use this revelation to their political advantage. (Apparently history repeats itself: Now the administration can’t, just can’t release Obamacare enrollment numbers to a public that’s paying for the program because… Republicans will use the revelation to their political advantage!)
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones argued that most of the administration’s missteps in its Obamacare implementation resulted, not from managerial incompetence or political calculation, but from resistance to Sun Tzu-derived stratagems like “Sabotage Works.”
To be fair, Dick Morris did nastily urge his supporters to visit HealthCare.gov repeatedly and try to push its capabilities to the limit, overload it, and break it.
Wait—Morris didn’t do any of that; he urged his supporters to “sign petitions asking their states to refuse to establish exchanges.” Armed insurrection!
In fact, Republicans and Tea Partiers have been practically Gandhi-like in the non-aggressiveness of their measures to overturn the law.
Here are the actual tactics Republicans have used: not voting for Obamacare, not allocating money for the development of the federal exchange, refusing to confirm radical recess appointments to oversee Medicare, refusing to gloss over the macro- and long-term implications of the program, rejecting the administration’s appeals to young people to buy a product not in their economic interest to purchase, declining Medicaid funds that would require their states to kick in taxpayer funds once the money runs out, declining to spend billions in taxpayer money to set up 51 state health exchanges, not approving more money to fix the broken website, not sympathizing with beleaguered Health and Human Services officials in the hot seat, refusing to waste time personally navigating individual voters around HealthCare.gov, not explaining away the website’s glitches, refusing to preach to Americans the wonders of Obamacare, and refusing to accept Obamacare as “settled law.”
That’s a lot of focused, frenzied activity, but notice what it all has in common: not doing things.
Here are some actions that would constitute genuine sabotage if Republicans actually carried them out: enacting provisions that would hobble the law and make it harder to implement; encouraging constituents to flood the site and put strain on its servers; and lying about premium increases, to name three off the top of my head. (It’s hard for me to generate more, because I’m not a Democrat and I don’t think that way.)
In the same way that conservatives generally support the “negative liberties” actually protected by the Constitution—the right not to be physically attacked or slandered, not to have your property or firearms confiscated, not to have your income stolen and redistributed—they have similarly pursued “negative tactics” in opposing Obamacare: namely, refusing to condone, fund, or support it.
In other words, Republicans’ means match their goals.
Meanwhile, Democrats who favor imaginary “positive rights” involving redistribution of wealth, judicial activism, and government promotion of social justice naturally confuse Republican failure to help implement Obamacare with active efforts to hamstring it. Democrats have spent so long pursuing an interventionist government that they can’t distinguish legitimate political dissent from ornery sabotage. In their view, “all-out war” is equivalent to “not lavishing trillions of dollars on something your constituents despise but the opposition party adores.”
Ironically, the party regularly smeared as “war-mongerers” is engaging in the most passive, serene opposition campaign to Obamacare possible: embodying the mantra, “This too shall pass.”
Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics
- How The Sabotage Of Obamacare Worked (dish.andrewsullivan.com)
- Why health care sabotage matters (msnbc.com)
- Dems: It’s Not Obama’s Fault ObamaCare is an Epic Fail (sfcmac.wordpress.com)
- Best of the Web Today: Who Sabotaged ObamaCare? (online.wsj.com)
- Obamacare Shouldn’t Have Been Managed Like a Campaign – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)