What Will Conservatives Do If They Don’t Kill Obamacare?

Marvellng like all of us at the obsession of conservatives with the destruction or disabling of the Affordable Care Act, TAP’s Paul Waldman looks and thinks ahead:

The question is, if eventually they have no choice but to accept that the argument over the ACA is settled, what on earth will Republicans do with themselves? Because over the last four years, opposition to Obamacare has taken on such an extraordinary power within the movement that all other issues have paled before it.

Sure, they could revert to the old standbys—Cut taxes! Cut regulations! Strong defense! But those are just positions you can take. Obamacare was a war to be fought. And nothing galvanizes, energizes, and defines us like our wars. That’s particularly true of the zealots who are driving the Republican party and form such a key part of its base. And if they aren’t fighting Obamacare, who will they be?

It’s a good question, but I think Waldman is wrong to assume that Republicans will “forget” a lost war or totally concede defeat. Conservatives “lost” on Social Security and Medicare, after all, but that hasn’t kept them from continuing to make rearguard efforts to “reform” or otherwise radically change these programs, as they continue to do today.

And as I’ve noted on several occasions in the recent past, the other option conservatives have is to actually use the structure of Obamacare to undermine the Great Society health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid, by making subsidized private insurance the be-all and end-all for government-assisted health care, to be followed by the gradual withering away of subsidies.

Yes, conservatives will be traumatized by the likely defeat of their efforts to repeal or “defund” or otherwise disable Obamacare. But there’s more than one way to turn back the clock.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.