Conservatives must not understand Ron Wyden

CONSERVATIVES MUST NOT UNDERSTAND RON WYDEN…. This week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon moved forward on a provision he put in the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, Wyden is looking to exempt his state from some of the reform law’s new mandates, as part of a measure that gives states leeway, so long as they meet certain federal standards.

The right seems awfully excited about this as evidence of … something. The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page argued with glee this morning, “Most Democrats have come to understand that they can’t run on ObamaCare, but few have the temerity of Ron Wyden. The Oregon Senator is the first to break with the policy underpinnings of the bill he voted for…. On ObamaCare, Democrats are having the first political second thoughts, at least in this election season. Mr. Wyden is essentially saying that what his party passed is not acceptable.”

The Weekly Standard runs with the same line, arguing that Wyden’s position is “a strong indication of how well his support for that legislation is playing out on the Oregon campaign trail.”

I really wish the conservatives would just stay away from subjects they don’t understand. Wyden isn’t having trouble “on the Oregon campaign trail”; he’s cruising to re-election, running as a leading progressive voice on health care. The senator also isn’t having “second thoughts” or “breaking with” the Affordable Care Act; he’s following through on the idea he personally inserted into the legislation.

Wyden’s move this week is not, in other words, evidence of splintering Democrats. As anyone who followed the debate understands, this is evidence of Wyden acting on the plan he intended to pursue all along. This is anything but a surprise — the only news here is that Wyden is trying to move up the timetable for Oregon’s experimentation.

And why is he doing that? Dave Weigel notes:

Does this mean that Oregon can try its own coverage plan that’s even more comprehensive than the federal plan? Does it mean it can try a public option? Yes, and it frees Democratic candidate for governor John Kitzhaber, who’s having surprising trouble reclaiming the office he held for eight years against Republican candidate Chris Dudley, to promise that. On the narrow political question, yes, Wyden is proving that the mandate is unpopular. On the larger policy question, though, he’s proving that “Obamacare” is all about moving the universal coverage ball down the field — and universal coverage is popular. (So is Wyden, who’s up 20 points, which scotches any theory that he’s doing this out of panic.)

I’d also just take this opportunity to note that for all the kvetching from Republican media about the scourge of the individual mandate, the individual mandate was a Republican idea, embraced during the ACA debate by leading Republicans.

Somehow, they always seem to forget that.