Via Mediaite. In fairness, this is less of an either/or thing for them than an “and.” No one (I think) is claiming that Republicans bear most of the responsibility for the failures of a program passed entirely with Democratic votes and developed with Hopenchange technocratic know-how. It’s less about shifting blame than sharing it.
Obama quickly became an effective advocate for the view that government is a critical part of the solution to society’s problems. So effective that he won reelection in the midst of a struggling economy. Even Republicans had to admit the 2012 face-off had ended with a rejection of the conservative creed that government is the problem. In an election postmortem, Newt Gingrich told Bloomberg News that conservatives were “profoundly wrong” in their reading of public sentiment and must “rethink our assumptions.” He said, “Part of it is a greater willingness to have government activism than most conservatives thought.”
Obama and liberals were winning the argument. Then came the epic incompetence of the last few weeks. The rollout of the insurance exchange that is central to the success of the Affordable Care Act has been nothing short of a disaster. This failure is a double whammy: it puts the future of Obamacare in even greater peril while placing Obama’s case for activist government on life support. If the government can’t build a functioning website to support the most important initiative of the president’s administration, then how can it be trusted to do anything?
Indeed. Sam Stein of HuffPo makes the same point in the clip, which may or may not earn him a scolding from fellow lefties for being too honest about the implications of the Healthcare.gov Chernobyl. As for the GOP’s alleged culpability in all this, there’s one argument they’re kicking around right now and one that Obama will start hammering over the next few weeks if his crack tech team can’t get the website on track. The current one is that Republicans made HHS’s job harder by refusing to cooperate in implementing the law, in particular by refusing to develop state-run exchanges for red states. That forced Obama and Sebelius to build their own leviathan federal site to serve 30+ state populations, which guaranteed the sort of heavy traffic that made the site unstable in the early going. But all of that just circles back to KP’s point: Massive centralized projects are what a Democratic administration’s supposed to do best. No one’s seriously suggesting that they didn’t have enough money to build a functioning site; the tab, per WaPo’s best estimate, is $170 million so far and counting. Ezra Klein groused yesterday that congressional Republicans have tried to hamstring the law at every turn, but the only reason there’s a House Republican majority in the first place is because of the ferocious backlash to O-Care’s passage in 2010. To this day, more people view the law unfavorably than favorably. Klein even cited the legal challenges to O-Care that ended up in the Supreme Court last year as evidence of GOP obstructionism. But the Supremes ruled that the mandate did violate the Commerce Clause. It was upheld anyway by John Roberts as a tax, but not only did five justices think the Commerce arguments against the mandate were meritorious, they actually proved to be winning. Were people not supposed to litigate the issue lest they obstruct Precious’s pet boondoggle even though the Supreme Court agreed, in part, that they were right?
That’s the current argument — that things might be going okay if it weren’t for those meddling Republican kids. (Klein, incidentally, doesn’t go that far himself. He’s been forthright in putting most of the blame on the White House, to the point where he’s now posting stuff like this to remind grumpy liberals that, no, Healthcare.gov isn’t “just a website.”) The argument for blaming Republicans that’s still to come is if the site continues to melt down deep into November and Obama has no choice but to ask Boehner and the House to work with Reid on a fix. What does Boehner do then? That gets back to my point this morning about the “Bad Samaritan,” to borrow Ted Cruz’s phase. The GOP has spent three years, most recently and notably during the shutdown, building its brand as the anti-ObamaCare party. They benefited from it three years ago. But if O asks for help now and they refuse categorically, he might be able to exploit their brand to blame the site’s failure on them, at least in part. “We could have fixed it by spring,” he’ll say, “but Republicans would rather see the exchanges fail.” That’s not without risk for the GOP. It’s grossly unfair to them, given that Obama’s incompetence has put them in this position, but politics ain’t beanbag.
But maybe I’m being too pessimistic. Even lefty Greg Sargent admits that if O can’t get the website working by his czar’s new self-imposed deadline of late November — which is unlikely — it’s “political Armageddon for Dems.” Exit question: Is KP right that Healthcare.gov’s sustained failure will cause people, especially younger people, to lose faith in liberalism? I want to believe, but the longer I’m around politics, the more I think ideology is less something people are reasoned into than something they “feel” and then build a framework of reason around. It’ll certainly help turn people off to liberalism at the margins, but no one’s expecting a sea change. Or are they?