News & Politics

Three-Time Losers: Conservatives Blame Everyone but Themselves for Healthcare Debacle

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Last week, Republicans, having muscled an Obamacare replacement bill through the House in May, tried to get it through the Senate, and failed; then tried to get something else through the Senate, and failed; then tried to get something else again through the Senate, and failed there too, leaving Obamacare unrepealed and unreplaced.

Donald Trump tried to browbeat the senators into trying a fourth time, and conservatives raged at every possible reason for their pet cause’s collapse — the president, the Democrats, the Republicans, John McCain — except of course the fact that their Pay or Die healthcare alternative is a dog that no one likes.

At National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru lamented that “Republicans have done almost nothing to dispel” the “misconceptions” about the bills spread by liberals. But hadn’t he noticed the yeoman propaganda effort put in by rightbloggers?

For example, at the FederalistScott Ehrlich told readers how he saved big on his type 2 diabetes treatments by clipping coupons and negotiating with pharmas and manufacturers. Readers could do it, too, Ehrlich assured them — they just had to “find the right people to talk to.” If the fact that Ehrlich is the president and COO of DTC Perspectives, “a publishing, conference/training, and consulting company specializing in the area of consumer marketing of pharmaceutical and healthcare products,” suggests to you that he has a negotiating advantage over the average uninsured citizen, you’re just not thinking positively enough.

At the Resurgent, one Peter Heck declared, ” ‘Faith Leaders’ Supporting Obamacare Should Repent” — Faith Leaders being in quotes because only right-wing evangelicals who have touched the hem of Trump’s garment can be considered true Fishers of Men. These pro-Obamacare “supposed ‘faith leaders,’ ” preached Heck, were “claiming to be motivated by the doctrines and teachings of Jesus,” but were actually only “invoking His name to defend a healthcare law that has destroyed and is destroying the lives and livelihoods of thousands of our fellow citizens.” Be not deceived; those saved by Brother Heck know that Pay or Die is the only health plan endorsed by Jesus himself, say hallelujah and lock her up! (Heck is also the author of a column called “Minimum Wage Hikes Are Killing the Poor.”)

Well, none of that worked, and when it all went down, Fox News put up chyrons showing Democrats after the last vote “CELEBRATING WHILE AMERICANS SUFFER OBAMACARE” or tried to deflect attention by kicking around the old Hillary rag doll.

When Chris Murphy (D.-Conn.) told his relieved constituents on Twitter that the vote showed “there is no anxiety or sadness or fear you feel right now that cannot be cured by political action,” the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro gasped, “This Democrat Just Tweeted Something Stunningly Fascist.… As usual, Democrats seem to believe that politics is the essence of life rather than merely a way for us to protect our rights and solve collective action problems.”

Shapiro admitted, “It is true that people require a life purpose. But that life purpose shouldn’t be political action, per se, but something deeper: building up families and communities, instilling virtue in our children, creating new and better products and services.” They also serve who only make better wiper fluid! And the guys cleaning trash cans for the BID for $2.50 an hour, they have a purpose, too — making Shapiro’s neighborhood nice and sparkly — which they shouldn’t blow by taking political action to increase their wages.

National Review’s Avik Roy — an implacable Obamacare enemy who, when the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare as law in 2012, claimed the chief justice had been “blackmailed by left-wing editorialists” — now focused his anger on the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan federal agency that analyzes the economic impact of legislation; Roy claimed Democrats had “stack[ed] the CBO in favor of their health-care agenda” by appointing “dozens of staffers” with a “center-left tilt” under Obama.

However, the GOP got control of the CBO in 2015, which by Roy’s logic meant they’d had nearly two years to restack the CBO with financial analysts sympathetic to Pay or Die (if any such analysts could be found), yet unaccountably failed to do so. Roy therefore pushed for “reforming the CBO,” presumably by the means currently advocated by conservative activists: ceding much of its authority to right-wing think tanks — like the one Roy happens to run. Bet Trumpcare would get a fair shake then!

National Review’s editors counseled new “options” for Republicans — for example, a bill that “would abolish the [mandate] fines but also take some steps to keep its abolition from raising premiums,” in part via “subsidies” to insurers — or what Trump called “BAILOUTS.” They also considered just straight-up ignoring the Senate parliamentarian to pass a bigger bill in defiance of the Senate’s Byrd Rule. With the trust and goodwill Republicans have built up over this legislation, voters are sure to excuse them!

Many of the brethren were especially angry at John McCain who, having made headlines last Tuesday by dramatically returning from surgery and a brain cancer diagnosis to vote to open debate on the bills, made headlines again a few days later by joining Republican senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins to vote to kill the third repeal bill.

“McCain and His Moderate Sisters Make Their Betrayal Official and Final,” snarled Ace of Spades. “[McCain] has never been happier than on the occasions when he is stabbing Republicans in the back,” hissed Scott Johnson of Power Line.

“HOLLYWOOD REJOICES AFTER OBAMACARE REPEAL DEFEATED: ‘JOHN MCCAIN PUT COUNTRY OVER PARTY,’ ” cried Breitbart, posting a picture of McCain between pictures of Kathy Griffin (whom they hate for pretending to cut off Trump’s head) and Billy Crystal (whom they hate for, I don’t know, not making City Slickers III, I guess).

Eventually, the brethren went alt-factual on McCain. Some claimed he’d quipped, “Let’s see Donald make America great again now” after his vote. Others suggested maybe he didn’t really have cancer. “Two weeks ago, John McCain underwent minor eye surgery. Remember? That is what the media said it was,” said Don Surber. “Then it was brain surgery to remove a tumor.… Dare I suggest that we are being fed a line of bull about John McCain? Again.” McCain must be shaking in his boots at this crack investigative work.

Did any of this bunch grasp, even dimly, that Republicans have a good reason to drag their feet on this one — that they’ve taken a hint from President Trump’s promises to let Obamacare “explode” (or “implode,” depending) and know that the longer they wait, the less likely it is voters will blame the ensuing catastrophe on them? (And that, if this plan sounds ridiculous and desperate, let’s see you come up with something better to try with legislation that polls worse than genital warts.)

They didn’t seem to. Some swore vengeance against all RINOs and trimmers — professor William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection, for example, asked whether it was “time to burn the Republican Party down, or a 2010-style Tea Party insurrection?” — but at this point it just seems like a performance of hurt and disappointment, the sort of thing teenagers do when the big game doesn’t go their way and they paint McCAIN SUX on the water tower. There are fifteen months to go till the midterms and plenty more chances to turn it around. Who knows? Maybe by then voters won’t remember why they wanted to be kept alive in the first place.

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