Ross Douthat, I get it. You’re kind of like The New York Times’ answer to Ann Coulter — a “conservative” who entertains the less conservative with your idiotic antics. The difference is Coulter’s more like Sarah Silverman or even Andy Kaufman, edgier, willing to go really far into bad taste territory to stay in character. You, however, work for the Gray Lady and have to be more restrained. You’re like the uncle who baits everyone at Thanksgiving, except purposely dumber so Times’ readers can always answer your argument in their heads before they even finish your column.
You are the Monday Crossword Puzzle of columnists, and I’m one of those people who can’t get through the puzzle by Wednesdays even in pencil with a good eraser, so I’ll play.
In this week’s column, The Three Burials of Obamacare, you explain that the first time the plan was nearly DOA was when Massachusetts sent what you describe as a “pick-up truck driving Republican” to the Senate and he voted agin’ it. Ok. Scott Brown did drive a pick-up. What’s the point? Is that a subtile way of saying “We Republican’s are regular Joe’s as opposed to you elite Democrats”? Granted, Brown looked more natural in his truck and his regular guy clothes than Romney did ever, but most regular guys aren’t lawyers, professional politicians and former centerfolds for magazines catering to gay men – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
You also blame Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for “maneuvering” to save health care despite voter backlash. Wait, what? The majority of voters in this country have made it pretty clear they wanted health care reform – see Presidential election 2012. Hint – the guy who lost might have lost by less if he hadn’t disavowed the biggest success of his term as governor (and also hadn’t been caught on tape telling us how he really feels about 47% of the population).
Next you blame Chief Justice Roberts for not overturning the law. You conservatives are big fans of judicial activism when it goes your way. (See Supreme Court Coup 2000 – Bush v Gore). I guess that’s what you have to do when your party is going down in flames, and can’t actually win elections.
Then, you blame Sebelius and her “hapless crew” for the website screw up. But why stop there? A lousy website wouldn’t have sunk it if all those Republican governors and legislatures hadn’t made it illegal in some states for people to even help other people navigate the exchanges and had refused to set up their own exchanges leaving all the work to the feds. Here in New York where the state set up its own exchanges and website, we’re doing just fine thank you very much. Why not put credit where it’s actually due?
You also blame the President for what you term the “noble lie,” you know, the stupid screw up when he said everyone could keep their insurance. That implies a lot more intentionality than was probably there. His statement didn’t make the “backlash” worse. The “backlash” was ginned up by the usual suspects – mostly Fox news, and some of the folks they’ve taken up as poster children for the evils of Obamacare even when it turns out they actually benefited from the new law. The reality which most of the reality-based public understands is that while some folks may wind up paying more per month out of pocket for actual health insurance than they were paying for junk insurance, none of them are going to die or go broke because of Obamacare. Without it, people with pre-existing conditions couldn’t get insurance, and there was nothing to stop insurers from canceling policies once people became sick. The Republican party still hasn’t come up with any fix for that other than a lot of mumbo-jumbo about the magic of the market place. Because that’s worked in what other developed country? (Hint: Freemarketstan is not a real place.)
But then you go on and blame the real culprits – liberals, and their desire for “big government solutions.” All of your columns involve this Manichean struggle between the forces of conservatism and the big-spending libertine liberals. Douthat get over yourself. Most people including most of the people who vote, aren’t all that “political.” They don’t get paid to write columns and they don’t spend all their time thinking which label to affix to themselves.
Most voters vote based on their perceived self-interest. Most voters support health care reform. Many of those who aren’t happy with the Affordable Care Act would rather see a single payer system – a public option at least. This isn’t because they think government is an answer to all their problems or as Romney so eloquently put it because they won’t take responsibility for their own lives, It’s because they’re sick of changing doctors every time their employer goes for a better deal and changes providers. It’s because they’re terrified of what could happen if they get laid off. It’s because maybe they’d love to be entrepreneurs and start their own small business, but they can’t afford to lose their employer-based insurance because they aren’t in their twenties and in perfect health, or they have children. It’s because they don’t want to lose all their life savings because of a single accident or illness, a big possibility in the pre-ACA environment.
Let’s not forget that before this became a partisan issue “Obamacare” was “Romneycare” – the signature achievement of a Republican governor, and before that it was the brainchild of a conservative think tank eager to ward off single payer. Obamacare was never what progressives wanted, and conservatives only turned against it because of partisanship.
Your conclusion, as usual, sounds reasonable in that it consists of words written in the correct order, but it doesn’t actually make any sense. You suggest that critics of Obamacare need to actually “wrestle with a system that resists any kind of change.” One wonders what kind of ideas conservatives would come up with. Given their belief in the individual, perhaps something that involves individuals taking responsibility for themselves by buying their own health insurance? Of course, there’d need to be some reform of health insurance laws to make sure the policies they were getting weren’t complete junk, met some minimal standards, and couldn’t be cancelled by providers on a whim. Most employer-offered insurance would meet the standard, but people who were in the individual market might not be able to afford the new private insurance. While getting everyone into the insurance pool would help keep costs down, decent policies might still cost more than some struggling families could afford. What about lowering their taxes? That’s always a conservative favorite. Wait a second, why not give them the tax credit up front, to make it easier to buy their private-market insurance?
Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?