The lament of a conservative who really, really wanted to like Obama

My problem instead is that Obama promised to include everyone in his new movement. When do the Republicans he reached out to and praised repeatedly during his 2008 campaign get their turn? When does the man who promised to be different from the typical liberal politician reappear? And a more sobering question: Did he exist at all?

Take, for example, the president’s health care reform plan. When Reagan passed historic tax cuts, he earned the support of a large number of Democrats in the House and Senate. When Bill Clinton passed sweeping welfare reform, he counted on an overwhelming number of Republicans for passage. Despite the extremely divisive nature of his election, George W. Bush put a priority on working with a number of his political opponents on major legislative achievements, including ultraliberal Ted Kennedy on the No Child Left Behind Act and, although they are loath to admit it now, a large number of Democrats supporting the use of force in Iraq.

By contrast, Obamacare—a sweeping and long-lasting reorganization of a major sector of the U.S. economy and the signature achievement of the Obama presidency—passed without the support of a single elected Republican and with the bruised and twisted arms of a number of reluctant Democrats. This was not only a breach of a central promise of the Obama candidacy, it was also politically unwise. Obamacare, in spite of any of its merits, became a rallying cry against the administration, costing the president’s party control of Congress in 2014 and putting the ultimate survival of Obama’s singular achievement at perpetual risk of wholesale repeal. Even one of the most senior Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer, has admitted that “Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them” by focusing on the passage of Obamacare at all costs.