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In journalism, we refer to a post-mortem narrative as a “tick tock,” and there have already been some juicy tick tocks written on the collapse of the Republican health care bill. Politico has details on President Trump’s disdain for detail, while The Times reports on the knives out for Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff.
I want to use this morning’s newsletter to make a larger point: The Republicans’ defeat didn’t stem mostly from tactical errors. It stemmed from the substance of the party’s position on health care.
The Republican Party can’t pass a health care bill because it has no coherent health care agenda. Tactics can’t overcome that problem.
The party spent years demonizing a law — Obamacare — that expanded coverage in a politically moderate way, incorporating many conservative ideas. Moving much further to the right of Obamacare required taking away, or worsening, a lot of people’s health insurance.
Republican leaders wouldn’t own up to that reality. They pretended they were helping people whom they were actually hurting.
The public caught on, thanks in part to an engaged, passionate progressive opposition to the bill. People rallied, went to town halls and called Congress. Experts across the political spectrum called the bill a nightmare. The bill became brutally unpopular.
In the House, Democrats opposed it unanimously, while Republican leaders lost both relative moderates in their party and far-right conservatives.
And all of it started with the party’s dishonest approach to Obamacare. Republicans sowed, and Republicans reaped.