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The Road to Repeal

May 26, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 35 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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It's a question often asked these days in conservative circles: Do you really think Obamacare can be repealed? Usually uttered behind closed doors, the question reveals both an un-Reagan-like pessimism and something of a disconnect from political reality.

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Obamacare was profoundly unpopular when the Democrats went ahead and passed it anyway, daring the American people to make them pay. Voters responded by removing more Democrats from congressional seats—69 between the two chambers—than they had since before Ted Williams first donned a Red Sox uniform, in the spring of 1939. In 2012, the failed Republican presidential-selection process yielded a nominee who didn’t make Obamacare a central issue and later called it “very attractive.” He lost despite Obamacare’s continuing unpopularity, which was indicated by exit polling. Now that Obamacare has finally gone into effect, its combined impact on Americans’ health insurance, their health costs, and their personal freedom—not to mention the nation’s solvency—has been far worse than its supporters advertised and possibly even worse than its opponents predicted. In response, President Obama has refused to implement the legislation as written, unlawfully altering parts of it as if he were a one-man Congress. Meanwhile, the 123 polls taken on Obamacare during his second term (according to Real Clear Politics) have all found it to be unpopular, with more than two-thirds of those polls—and 8 of the 10 most recent polls—showing approval deficits in the double-digits.

So—yes—Obamacare can, should, and must be repealed. America’s future as a nation of liberty, prosperity, civil society, and laws depends on it. Indeed, given its unpopularity, the question should be: How can Obamacare not be repealed?

What’s more, Republicans, as the party of limited government, not only have an obligation to repeal Obamacare but would benefit politically from doing so. More specifically, they would benefit politically from putting forward the alternative to Obamacare that is the key to achieving its full repeal.

Americans are eagerly awaiting such a conservative alternative. A recent poll by McLaughlin & Associates asked, “If the Republicans were to propose a new plan of their own to improve health care by repealing and replacing Obamacare would you be more or less likely to vote for a Republican for Congress?” By a margin of 31 percentage points (48 to 17 percent), likely voters said they’d be more, not less, inclined to back a Republican in that event. Moreover, that margin was at least 25 points among independents, Hispanics, those under 40, those who make less than $60,000, and women—groups the GOP is supposedly courting.

On the generic congressional ballot, the McLaughlin poll showed Republicans trailing Democrats by 2 points among likely voters—43 to 41 percent. But the poll also asked whether likely voters would be more apt to support for Congress a “Republican who wants to repeal and replace Obamacare” or a “Democrat who wants to keep and fix Obamacare.” By a tally of 47 to 43 percent, respondents picked the Republican—a 6-point swing in the GOP’s favor (from 2 points down to 4 points up). That swing from the generic congressional ballot was even greater among independents (13 points in the GOP’s favor), Hispanics (7 points), those who make under $60,000 (7 points), and women (8 points).

Earlier McLaughlin polling, commissioned by the 2017 Project, is similarly revealing. When asked their “view of” Obama-care, only 32 percent of respondents said “it should remain the law of the land, either in its current form or in amended form”; 44 percent said they’d rather see it “repealed and replaced with a conservative alternative that aims to lower health costs and help people get insurance”; and 16 percent said they’d rather see it “repealed but not replaced with an alternative.” Thus, with a conservative alternative in play, support for repeal beat opposition to repeal by almost two to one (60 to 32 percent).

Any such conservative alternative, however, will be judged in two key ways: What will it do for the poor and the near-poor who are almost the sole Obamacare beneficiaries, and will it be disruptive in any other way?

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