The Corner

Bernstein Again

He’s back for more, but he still has no persuasive arguments.

1) Against my claim that the unpopularity of Obamacare as a whole has been more politically important than the popularity of individual provisions, he says that the fact that Democrats voted for the legislation shows that they thought it was popular. Here are three other possible explanations for why the Democrats supported the bill: they thought it was good policy; they thought it was politically important for Democrats in the long run even if its passage would hurt Democrats in the short run; or they thought it was unpopular but that failing to enact it would demoralize their base and thus hurt them even in the short run more than passing an unpopular bill would. If Bernstein’s theory were correct, one would expect passage to have been a lot easier and the margin a lot larger than it was.

2) Bernstein writes that “before the vote, conservatives thought the bill was dead, because of its supposed unpopularity (the two things I always cite are here and here, but I’ll add this one from Ponnuru himself).” Follow the link: I didn’t say the bill was dead; I said its unpopularity would create obstacles to its passage. It did.

3) More Bernstein:

He’s advocating a clean repeal (“a simple, one-sentence repeal”).  That means a repeal of the popular provisions, which means that if those provisions are in fact popular then people are naturally going to object to a clean repeal.  That’s the whole point. Voters . . . will want to keep the stuff they like while getting rid of what they don’t like. Should Republicans press repeal, Democrats (especially since in Ponnuru’s repeal fantasy they’ll be in the minority and therefore can be irresponsible) will say that the only difference between the Dems and the GOP is that Republicans want to get rid of the good stuff.  After all, they’ll say, everyone agrees that the unpopular provisions should be eliminated.

Actually, what I advocated was that House Republicans push “a simple, one-sentence repeal” this year. Not only did I not advocate that this legislation be the vehicle for the anti-Obamacare cause from now through 2015, I explicitly suggested otherwise. If at some point Democrats really are willing to abolish the individual mandate, or the fines used to enforce it, then conservatives should take them up on it. The rest of Obamacare will then have to be repealed, because it can’t work without such provisions.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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