This containment means that conservatives have room and time to be more patient, cautious and experimental than were the Obama Democrats before them. If the Obamacare exchanges aren’t ultimately going to work out, then allowing them to persist in liberal states while an alternative system gets set up in red states is a reasonable way to gradually transition from the liberal model toward the conservative one. If the right’s wonks are right about health policy, the Cassidy-Collins approach should — gradually — enable conservatives to prove it.
And if the right is wrong, if its model doesn’t match reality, if people are simply miserable as health care consumers because the system has too much of Friedman and not enough of Burke — well, in that case both the country and conservatism will be better off if we learn that via a voter rebellion in 10 right-leaning states, rather than through a much more widespread backlash against a nationwide health-insurance failure. (Which is something a president with a high self-regard and poor approval ratings might have a particular reason to avoid.)
Between this reasonable case and legislative reality, of course, falls a variety of shadows. But more than for the various repeal-and-replace alternatives? I’m not so sure.
Right now the Cassidy-Collins compromise has few enthusiastic backers. In a few months, however, it might turn into conservative health care reform’s best hope.