Politics & Policy

If Republicans Do Nothing against Obamacare, Their Voters Will Punish Them

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Reuters photo: Aaron P. Bernstein)
A new poll shows that 10 percent of GOP voters would abandon the party in 2018.

This week’s expected Senate vote on the Republican plan to alter Obamacare has ignited a debate about who will gain or lose from it. Democrats point to the fact that the GOP bill is so far more unpopular than Obamacare — 48 percent in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll say it’s a bad idea, versus 38 percent who think the same of Obamacare.

But many Republicans believe that survey data show voters will punish anyone who doesn’t substantially alter Obamacare, making passage of some reform imperative.

Both parties are gambling that intensity of feeling is on their side. Every single Senate Democrat is planning to oppose the GOP Senate bill, including ten Senate Democrats up for reelection next year in states won by President Trump. Some of those Democrats have voted to confirm Trump appointees such as Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, but on health care they are united.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to keep his 52 Republican members united behind him. He is telling them that while the bill may be unpopular, doing nothing on health care would be even more unpopular and would be considered an abdication of responsibility by many voters.

After all, Republicans have railed against Obamacare for the last seven years and now finally control the executive branch as well as both houses of Congress. “If we don’t act now as Obamacare is collapsing, when will we or can we act?” asks Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, a former head of the House Freedom Caucus.

There is polling evidence that a failure to vote for at least an overhaul and partial repeal of Obamacare is politically riskier than voting for it. The Club for Growth, a free-market advocacy group, has taken a poll showing two things: 1) General-election voters will vote against incumbent Senate Democrats in swing states if they continue to support Obamacare, and 2) if Republicans fail to address Obamacare, many GOP and independent voters will fail to show up and support Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.

“Republicans should be reminding voters why they rejected the seriously flawed Obamacare legislation in the first place,” says David McIntosh, a former Indiana congressman and now head of the Club for Growth. “The key is focusing on how harmful Obamacare is for Americans and how Republican free-market principles will improve health insurance.”

McIntosh contends that his poll — along with survey research by other groups — backs up his approach. He notes that when independent voters in West Virginia and Montana (two states with vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for reelection in 2018) were asked if they were “less likely” or “much less likely” to vote for senators who support Obamacare, close to 45 percent of independents in West Virginia and 50 percent in Montana said yes. That should make Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana exceedingly nervous.

On the flip side, there is danger for Republicans in inaction. The Club’s national poll found that 10 percent of likely Republican voters won’t vote to reelect Republicans who don’t take a strong stand against Obamacare.

Republicans in Congress never thought they would be held to account for their promises — repeated countless times over the past seven years — to repeal Obamacare.

I have no doubt that many Republicans in Congress never thought they would be held to account for their promises – repeated countless times over the past seven years — to repeal Obamacare. Indeed, the current versions of both the House and Senate GOP Obamacare overhaul bills wouldn’t amount to a full repeal. “There are twelve regulations in Obamacare,” GOP senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said Friday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We’re [in the Senate] repealing two of them.” Paul, an eye doctor, says the failure to reduce regulations makes it impossible to offer low-cost health-insurance plans to people of limited income.

So when it comes to the politics of health care, Republicans find themselves in a tight corner. They regained control of Congress in large part due to their opposition to Obamacare. Now, if a few of GOP senators block even the imperfect bill before them, the entire party will be blamed and will suffer at the polls for falsely advertising they would act on health-care reform.

It would be truly ironic if Republicans suffered steep losses or even effective control of Congress over the very issue that brought them back to power in the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. In the end, keeping promises counts in politics — even inattentive voters can spot and punish hypocrisy.

READ MORE:

Editorial: The Senate’s Flawed Health-Care Bill

The Republican Health-Care Mistake

So You Want a Swiss Health-Care System?

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More