Conservatives and Republicans should commit themselves not only to defeating Democratic health-care legislation, but to repealing it if it is enacted.
They ought to announce that they will work for repeal for two reasons. The first is straightforward: Making the announcement will increase the probability that the legislation, if enacted, will be repealed. Otherwise inertia might carry it forward even if the public is dissatisfied with its operation in its early years. Conservatives might win some elections and then find themselves divided, with some merely seeking reform of Obamacare. Momentum might dissipate. Most programs, once enacted, never go away, no matter how badly they work. Conservatives should make a strong commitment not to let that happen this time.
The second reason for pledging to repeal the health-care legislation if it’s enacted is that making the pledge will reduce the likelihood that it is enacted to begin with. It would tell vulnerable congressional Democrats who just want this politically damaging debate over that enacting it will not end the political pain—that this debate is not going to fade away by the next election, or maybe even the one after that. Some Democrats may be willing to lose congressional seats in order to enact a longstanding liberal policy goal. A pledge to repeal the health-care legislation would tell even these Democrats that they could end up losing seats for nothing—for nothing lasting, anyway.
Repealing Obamacare should be the Right’s fallback strategy, and making it known that it will be might make it slightly less necessary to fall back to.