Today the Supreme Court found in favour of Obamacare, as I had predicted,and the wheels fell off the Republican clowncar. This is great news for America, as it now means that the law has overcome most of its significant Supreme Court challenges and become settled fact, and the 10 million people who are benefiting from it can continue to have some faith that they can get the healthcare they need. But this is a disaster for the Republican presidential campaign, coming as it does before the primaries, because it means that all 10 riders in the clowncar will now have to rampage through the primaries promising to repeal Obamacare. Whoever wins that hilarious circus of stupidity is then going to have to go to the election with a record of promising to repeal the law – which is going to really worry 10 million people who depend on it, and force them all to vote Democrat.
My guess is it’s going to be a Clinton-Bush battle, pitting one of America’s most popular politicians (Clinton), with a record of rational policy-making in healthcare, supported by the best get-out-the-vote campaign team in American history, against a man who has to hide his last name and is starting the election with a possible 10 million vote deficit. Even putting aside the deep, cutting irony of a democracy holding an election campaign between the scions of two dynasties, Bush trying to worm and squirm his way out of promises to repeal this law is going to be very entertaining. Furthermore, some of the states where people are benefiting most from the Medicaid expansion and federal exchanges are conservative or swing states like Alabama, and those 10 million voters are likely to be disproportionately clustered in them.
The alternative for Republicans is to – don’t laugh – come up with an alternative health care plan, something they have signally failed to do for the past 8 years, despite repeated complaints about how terrible and ineffective and bad and fascist Obamacare is. Sure, they have a few op-eds on the matter but they haven’t done anything resembling serious policy development and they’re already in the primary stage. Contrary to journalistic silliness in the USA that the Republicans are “tripping over themselves” to make new laws (I kid you not, a journalist from Vox actually wrote that!) the Republicans are not in any way serious about health policy, and no plan they come up with will be anything except terrible, which is why they aren’t trying. Their “plan” for America’s uninsured is to leave them uninsured.
So what are the Republicans going to do? They seriously threaten their election chances with promises of repeal, but they will look like the idiots and fools they are if they release a plan (can you imagine Trump’s healthcare plan!?) If this decision happened after the primaries maybe they’d be okay – refuse to be drawn on the issue during the primaries because “there’s a court case” and then run for election with the promise of a plan (isn’t that what Obama did?) But it’s hard to win with the promise of a plan when you’ve already made it clear that you’re going to tear away the health insurance of 10 million people. Better the devil you know, and all that. And now any plan they do release will be compared with Obamacare – will it insure more people? Will it cost more? Will it cause millions to lose their insurance? Why should we risk it when we have a plan that is covering more and more people every day!?
I think the Republicans were assuming that their pet conservatives on the Supreme Court would deliver them Obamacare chaos, and they could then coast home to win the election on the basis that Obama had messed everything up, with vague promises of a plan that “serious” political journalists would pretend to believe. But Roberts was appointed to the Supreme Court by George W Bush, proponent of “compassionate conservatism,” and is probably out of step with the modern Republican movement (I have already read people at patterico claiming he is a closet homosexual who is being blackmailed by Obama!) They probably shouldn’t have bet their entire political strategy on the opinions of a couple of old men who might, actually, take their role in politics seriously. But then maybe the Republican political movement has forgotten what it means to take a political role seriously, since they’re mostly just grifters, failure and con artists, and couldn’t imagine that those old men might see themselves as bigger than their party allegiances.
Two minor side points of this decision are that 1) hopefully US politics will now begin to back away from the ideology of repeal-through-the-courts, which is fundamentally undemocratic (if you don’t like a law, repeal it through politics not the courts!) and 2) I think it’s well past time I retired the use of the word “conservative” when talking about the American right. There’s nothing about their politics, their attitude towards their institutions, or their public behavior that is conservative – they’re radical. The word “conservative” is not very useful in politics generally, but at least in Australia and the UK it refers to two broad streams of political thought that we all understand and (with a few notable exceptions like Tony Abbott) can accept are broadly trying to be responsible and politically rational. It’s no more or less meaningful than “radical” or “liberal” or “left-wing” in those contexts, though all these words are only of limited use. But in the American context it’s just meaningless. The Democrats are the conservatives of American politics and the other side is, broadly speaking, a convocation of clowns and radicals. So what’s an alternative word for the broad spectrum of anti-Democrat politics in the USA that is still meaningful to readers, but not an insult to actual conservatives? I am thinking “right wing” but is there something more evocative? Radical Constitutionalists? Clownsiders? The Idiot Wing? The Grifter Party?
The primary season hasn’t started properly yet and already the clowncar is overcrowded and looking pretty wobbly. The next couple of months are going to be simultaneously hilarious and deeply depressing. Strap yourselves in, folks, it’s going to be a wild ride …
fn1: Will Chelsea Clinton run in future?
fn2: This is interesting, right here. When the High Court of Australia ruled in favour of Aboriginal people in the Mabo dispute, there was a lot of angst but I don’t remember anyone saying that court members were being blackmailed by the government or demanding an armed insurrection (as is happening in comments at Redstate). It really seems to me like the fragmentation of US politics is complete, and there is no more common ground to be found there.