John McCain signaled this week that he can’t support the Graham-Cassidy bill to roll back some portions of Obamacare. (It’s not a repeal, in any sense, and shouldn’t be called one.)
His reason is captured in this quote, recorded at CNSNews:
“As I have repeatedly stressed, health care reform legislation ought to be the product of regular order in the Senate. Committees of jurisdiction should mark up legislation with input from all committee members, and send their bill to the floor for debate and amendment,” said McCain. “That is the only way we might achieve bipartisan consensus on lasting reform, without which a policy that affects one-fifth of our economy and every single American family will be subject to reversal with every change of administration and congressional majority.”
This reasoning sounds plausible – or it would, if this were 50 years ago. Indeed, no one thinks it’s a good idea for the people’s health insurance rules to get jacked around every time an administration changes. (Legislation as intrusive and burdensome as Obamacare is exactly the condition that makes it necessary to keep tweaking the rules, as a matter of fact.)
But it’s not 50 years ago anymore. It’s 2017, and the reality we confront is that the American divide has hardened, in a way more and more people are coming to understand. The divide is not between people who agree that government should play some reasonable role in regulating health care, and just disagree over the details of that role.
The divide now is between people who do want government to have the power to jack our health care rules around at will – and people who don’t.
McCain has the basic premise wrong. And, having it wrong, he is wholly unable to see that the fight between sides is not one that can be averted with bipartisanship.
It will never be acceptable, to the people who want constitutional limits and freedom, for the federal government to have the power to jack around their health care arrangements. That power is either denied, or it will be abused. This is not something that can be compromised on. It’s like the cartoon in which a radical Islamist is shouting “Death to all Jews!” and the mediator looks at Israel and asks, “Can’t you meet him half way?”
On the other hand, the advocates of government control are determined – now that they are so close – to relinquish no ground whatsoever.
There are still many Democrats in Congress who voted for Obamacare in 2010. And the bullpen of public advocacy thinkers from which the Democratic Party draws – e.g., at the Center for American Progress – remains wholly dedicated to the Obamacare proposition: mandated participation for everyone, in a government-controlled health “insurance” scheme that reduces choice in every way.
Leading Democrats even showed their hand on this in the last few weeks, pushing openly for “single payer” schemes in media and political venues.
There is no compromise possible on this now. I don’t think McCain himself holds an extreme view on health care; I don’t think any of the Republican senators do, and there are probably some Democrats who would work with Republicans to at least make partial changes that would give the people some relief from skyrocketing premiums and collapsing insurance markets.
But the “Obamacare” issue isn’t about that. In 2017, it’s about whether the collectivist worldview that has taken over the American left will retain its levers of power or not. Tens of millions of voters can see that, and have seen it for some time. John McCain doesn’t see it.
He also doesn’t see how the dynamics of partisan politics have already hardened against the bipartisanship he longs for.
Every attempt to adjust Obamacare will continue to present the one situation McCain rejects: that is, a bill that has to be passed and signed over the objections of virtually all Democrats in the Senate.
This is because the Democratic leadership doesn’t care about the consequences to the American people of refusing to address Obamacare’s problems. The Democrats will pay no penalty, as far as they’re concerned, for not cooperating.
Rather, they benefit from either alternative. If the Republicans can’t push any changes through, the Republicans get blamed for weakness, disorder, incompetence, etc. Most importantly, the media will help Democrats blame Trump for it.
If the Republicans do push changes through, without the Democrats, then as the leading Democrats see it, the Republicans take complete ownership of all problems at that point. Even if any remaining problems actually arise from the original legislation of 2010, the Republicans will have no hope of making that case via the hostile media.
The Democratic leadership has no incentive to cooperate on bipartisan legislation that would do anything meaningful. I don’t know that this applies to every individual Democrat; I’m guessing probably not, although I do think a majority of them agree with the premise.
But the determination of the Washington Democratic leadership to fight this as a political war is the overriding factor. They have no incentive to participate in a bipartisan approach – nothing that would supersede their understanding of this situation as political warfare. Their fight is not against “Republicans” at this point. It’s a fight to retain the levers of power that they will lose if the political revolution of 2016 continues.
The Democratic leadership (and to a great extent the Republican leadership, although for different reasons) is invested in power that depends on continuation of the old-consensus status quo. The people themselves have been realigning against the status quo since at least 2010 – and so the leaders of the Democratic Party and the progressive left, including the major media, are actually waging their fight against the people.
In demanding that the organized Democrats be included in decisions about the direction of government, McCain in effect is also siding with them against the people. But he doesn’t see it that way, because he doesn’t understand what so many voters already do: that the fight of the party leaders is against them. The people are the enemy, because they’re resisting coercion.
I recommend two things. One, don’t think too harshly of McCain. The world we are in is no longer the one he understood. He doesn’t see what the fight is. I’m not sure he recognizes that there is a fight. It’s time for him to ride into the sunset.
Two, don’t lose heart if Graham-Cassidy doesn’t pass. It’s not a good bill anyway. I wouldn’t lose heart if it did pass, but it’s not the solution we’re looking for, and it would be the worst possible outcome to pass it and then go on as if nothing else needed to be done.
It will take longer, but we will get a better outcome, if the voters keep the political revolution going by throwing out superannuated “establishment” politicians in 2018, and again in 2020. It may be necessary to keep throwing them out until there is a Congress able to actually repeal Obamacare. It would be better to do it that way than to accept a deeply flawed set of half-measures as our “solution,” and go back to sleep.
McCain cannot lead us on this matter. And it takes time and a process to deal with that. I’m hopeful that economic recovery will mitigate somewhat the financial burdens of Obamacare, until we get the right outcome, and the people’s access to health care no longer depends on political wars in Washington. Obamacare did that to us — and that’s why Obamacare has to be undone.