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The Big Picture on Obamacare's Politics

3:01 PM, Mar 31, 2014 • By JAY COST
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The president deserves particular criticism. The president is the one elected official who can claim to represent all the people and thus has long been the agent to vouchsafe this political bargain. Barack Obama broke the deal, and he lied about it, to boot, with, "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."

Next time you hear a liberal talking about radical conservatives breaking generations of tradition, remember that Obamacare is actually the break with the past. And a perverse one at that.

The political inference: The politics of this moving forward is a lot more complicated than people on both sides seem to think. This law cannot be repealed in a straightforward manner, nor is it securely in place. That is because there are winners and losers to be mobilized on both sides. The final fate of Obamacare depends upon (a) the relative size and strengths of both groups; (b) how well the two parties bid for their support.

This, then, is the goal for conservatives moving forward. The next week the Democrats and their water carriers in the media will cheer about how Obamacare is vindicated because of 6-7 million "enrollments." Nonsense. The real battle is going to be fought over the next few election cycles, as both sides mobilize their coalitions. Republicans must mobilize the losers and also present an appealing counter-offer to the winners. In any new program put forward by the GOP, people who are made better off under Obamacare must be left at least as well off. Not only that, but the program must be straightforward enough that Obamacare's winners will be able to understand clearly that in the GOP proposal their benefits will not disappear; after all, the Democrats and their friends in the media will do anything and everything to convince these people that they will be made worse off. 

Importantly, this was the political landscape of Obamacare six days ago, six weeks ago, six months ago. The bill was bound to create winners and losers by its very design; indeed, a careful read of reports from CBO and CMS at the time of passage indicated that very clearly. The goal for the GOP is to build a coalition that combines the losers, and a critical mass of winners, to replace it with something that is better.

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