Critical Condition

‘This is just the beginning.’

Rich Lowry and Bob Costa have done a nice job laying out the ways in which the Democrats could still trip up on health care. Still, the unfortunate reality is that the prospects for real reform are bleak, and some version of the current bill is almost certainly going to pass at this point. 

We did not get to this place overnight. Mark Schmitt’s post on The American Prospect reveals a lot about the way the Left approached the health-care issue over the last decade and a half since the Clinton plan failed. According to Schmitt:

The work underlying the current health-reform effort began years before Obama even announced his campaign for the White House. . . . Advocates and funders put massive resources into groups such as Health Care for America Now. They picked up political scientist Jacob Hacker’s idea of a public plan . . . and they worked to ensure that all the Democratic candidates for president (with the exception of single-payer stalwart Rep. Dennis Kucinich) converged around roughly the same basic model.

In sum, according to Schmitt, “Years of health-reform-policy development, projects to improve public awareness of health reform, and advocacy campaigns were able to lay the groundwork for health reform well in advance.” 

But after all this hard work, and with victory on the horizon, the Left is not done. According to Politico, Sen. Tom Harkin announced that this bill “is just the beginning.” According to Harkin, the Senate bill is “a starter home, not a mansion . . . with room for expansions and additions later on.” Despite their apparent victory, some Democrats are already clamoring for more. 

Conservatives may not win this round, but they need to start getting focused and organized in order to stop things from getting worse, and perhaps even to fix the situation in the years ahead. In order to do this, conservatives need to take a page from the playbook Schmitt described, and coalesce around a plan that will work. The next step is to start the long hard work of selling it to candidates and to the public. Jeff Anderson and I laid out a possible approach a few weeks ago, but this is by no means the only alternative. There is, however, no alternative to countering the Left’s inevitable attempts to build upon this new health-care structure they are creating. 

Tevi Troy is a presidential historian and former White House aide. His latest book is Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump.

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