Bannon Is Getting Cold Feet on Obamacare Repeal

Buried pretty deep in an article by Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein is a very interesting nugget about the battle lines that have formed within the White House on repealing Obamacare.

Within the administration, aides are debating how far and fast Republicans can afford to move when it comes to undoing key aspects of the ACA. White House officials declined to comment for this story.

Several people in Trump’s orbit are eager to make bold changes to reduce the government’s role in the health-care system. That camp includes Vice President Pence, who told conservative activists last week that “America’s Obamacare nightmare is about to end,” as well as Domestic Policy Council aides Andrew Bremberg and Katy Talento and National Economic Council aide Brian ­Blasé…

Other White House advisers, according to multiple individuals who asked for anonymity to describe private discussions, have emphasized the potential political costs to moving aggressively. That group includes Kushner, NEC Director Gary Cohn, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

So the guy who wants to deconstruct the administrative state is getting cold feet about moving aggressively to repeal Obamacare. This is the same guy who told the CPAC audience that they needed to fight every day to take their country back and seems to have embraced chaos as a management philosophy. So what’s up with that?

If you remember, Bannon is also the guy who envisions himself as the leader of a global movement based on white nationalism. His ground troops are the white working class guys who view both national and global demographic trends as a threat to their supremacy. In other words, the people he calls “the forgotten man.” Interestingly enough, those are the same folks who would be most negatively affected by a repeal of Obamacare.

Odds are, a large number of those newly insured were Trump voters: An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6.3 million of the 11.5 million Americans who used the ACA marketplace to buy their insurance last year live in Republican Congressional districts.

Policy analysts say that a rollback of the ACA would hurt older and rural Americans — two populations that favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

Jay Willis puts it pretty bluntly.

White nationalists: Can’t win with ’em, can’t win without ’em!…

It turns out—prepare to be shocked—that there might be a hard ceiling for a nationwide political campaign that defines itself not by its concrete policy proposals, but instead by its vague, general commitments to things like jingoism, isolationism, and ethnonationalism…Trump voters might be intrigued by the idea of a homogenous society in which everyone greets each other with some variation of “Make America Great Again,” but that prospect gets a lot less appealing when access to badly-needed healthcare disappears overnight.

Make no mistake about it…the guy who wants to deconstruct the administrative state is not likely to take a pass on getting rid of Obamacare. The key distinction Eilperin and Goldstein point to between the two camps in the White House is how aggressively they want to go after Obamacare repeal. In other words, it’s more likely that Bannon is the one whispering in Trump’s ear that the process for repeal and replace will extend into next year. He doesn’t want to shock the troops he needs politically right out of the starting gate.

The reason this is important is because it gives us a bit of a glimpse into how Bannon plays his weak hand. Obviously he doesn’t think that Trump has a lock on enough of these voters and is hoping to delay any direct hits they might experience as a result of the initial legislation supported by this administration. That’s good to know.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.