Commentary Magazine


RE: ObamaCare and Political Theater

Pete, it’s hard to see exactly what Obama is doing here. Certainly, even in the hubris-filled halls of the West Wing, the Obami must know that the votes aren’t there in the House, and as a result, it will be mighty hard even to get 50 Senate Democrats to walk the plank for a bill that is so grossly unpopular. There are a few theories circulating.

First, Obama is simply tending to his base, trying to demonstrate how he did everything possible (other than find a reasonable bill the country could support). He is, he will tell his netroot base, simply a victim of the Republican attack machine and all that misinformation. He’s putting on a show summit, giving his faithful a reminder of better days when dog-and-pony shows and big speeches seemed to be the road to legislative victory.

Another theory is that this is simply a prelude to a bare-bones bill that will save him from humiliation. Regulation of the insurance industry — i.e., price controls and federal micro-management — might be popular and passable. That was Obama’s “added element” in the ObamaCare II rollout. And if he can throw in some tort reform studies, a Medicare reform commission, some tinkering on interstate insurance sales and the like, he can declare “victory” and climb out of the hole he dug for himself as he pursued an unpopular signature agenda item at the expense of achieving anything else of note.

And finally, Obama might have no game plan at all. It wouldn’t be the first time. He’ll have a summit. Maybe the poll numbers will improve. Maybe he’ll force the Democrats to take a vote. Maybe not. Just figure it out as he goes along. After all, if he had planned on garnering bipartisan support and actually passing something, Obama wouldn’t have rolled out an ObamaCare II so similar to  ObamaCare I, nor would he have threatened the Republicans with reconciliation in advance of the summit.

In the end, there are two simple realities. The public doesn’t like the bill at all. And it’s an election year, following a losing run for Democrats that has spooked incumbents. That’s why it’s hard to see how ObamaCare II will ever become law.