Re: Don’t Let Up on Obamacare

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Agreed, Jeff, that Republicans should keep campaigning on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare–and that they should take the replacement part of that promise seriously. But I also think there is some value to broadening the conservative campaign message beyond Obamacare, as important as it is. NR’s editors made this argument a few days ago.

The “avoid mistakes” strategy seems to us to be itself a mistake to be avoided. It is probably a mistake, first of all, with respect to this year’s elections. Voters expect officeholders to be conversant with the broad range of issues. They have lost faith in Democratic ideas without gaining confidence in Republicans. They may not pore over the details of a candidate’s platform — that’s the refrain one always hears from Republicans who argue against ideas in the name of realism — but they would like to think that a candidate will try to accomplish things that will make a difference for the nation.

All of this counsels in favor of running on a broad-based critique of Obama and his party: not just on Obamacare, that is, but on the grandiosity, bossiness, and incompetence of contemporary liberalism, of which Obamacare is the perfect symbol. Look, for example, behind the administration’s energy policy — which imagines that another sector of the economy can be remade from Washington, and that our future needs will be better met by subsidies for Solyndra than by allowing the development of fracking — and you see the same philosophy that informs Obamacare.

And it counsels, as well, in favor of advancing conservative solutions across a wide range of issues. Republicans should make the case against Obamacare every day — but part of that case has to be an explanation that there is a better way to address the concerns people rightly have about health care. They should vote against raising the minimum wage, but also talk about how cutting the cost of energy, health care, and taxes will raise living standards. Even issues that do not have an immediate impact on most people can help to establish a valuable reputation for the party as energetic and solution-oriented. Reversing the defense drawdown, slashing corporate welfare, unwinding Fannie and Freddie: There is no shortage of policies for candidates to discuss.