As I've said before, Obamacare was not what real liberals and progressives wanted: single-payer. In today's op-ed, Zelizer laments that, and warns liberals against "half-baked" liberal policies that are really just conservative-lite ideas.
Obamacare is the classic example. It was first proposed by the uber-conservative Heritage Foundation in the early 90s, then supported by uber-conservative economist Milton Friedman and Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, among 25 conservative leaders, then implemented on the state level by a Republican governor.
The only problem is that the conservative party in the U.S. has gone farther to the Right since the 90s. Now its "best & brightest" like Rush Limbaugh believe that the answer is to get rid of health insurance altogether. We should return to the 19th century. Idiots!
Before Obamacare, Obama never even put the single-payer option on the table. Congress never voted on it. Obama began with closed-door negotiations with insurance companies and drug makers to see what they'd agree to. Obamacare is what we got. Now their revenues are hitting all-time highs and projected to rise in 2014 as well, so don't cry for them.
Nevertheless, there are those on the Right today who ridiculously view Obamacare as a big, elaborate socialist conspiracy to usher in single-payer health care. Talk about a disconnect! On one side, we have dissatisfied liberals lamenting that Obama missed a once-in-a-generation chance to change the healthcare game. On the other side, we have dissatisfied conservatives who say the liberals are pulling a fast one to get what they want eventually. Eventually, in some distant future.... It's as if paranoid conservatives have more faith in the inevitability of liberal ideals than liberals do!
There are two variants on this conspiracy theory, as far as I can pick up. The first variant goes: expanding Medicaid for the poor is just one more step toward single-payer, since the government already pays for more than half of all healthcare in America. The second one goes: Obamacare is intended to be such a disaster that Americans will throw up their hands, decide private insurance is a mess, and demand single-payer instead.
I'll give both versions more time than they deserve, if only because millions of talk radio/Tea Party Republicans really believe in them. As for expanding Medicaid, conservatives can breathe a partial sigh of relief, because their Republicans governors already blocked Medicaid expansion to 8 million Americans in their respective states. There is a problem here though, and it's real. GOP governors also refused to set up their own health insurance markets, thus shifting the burden to the federal Healthcare.gov website. This is delaying people getting health insurance who want it, and they might just give up entirely.
Rick Moran summed up the self-defeating idiocy of Republicans' spiteful, partisan refusal to establish state health insurance exchanges:
[W]hile conservatives think the Obamacare exchanges are overregulated and oversubsidized, they are actually closer to the right-of-center vision for health care reform than the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, which is happening no matter what transpires with Healthcare.gov. So if the exchanges fail and the Medicaid expansion takes effect (and, inevitably, becomes difficult to roll back), we’ll be left with an individual market that’s completely dysfunctional and a more socialized system over all.
The second variant on this conspiracy theory might end up being true... but only by accident, not by design. I mean, do conservatives really believe that Obama is such a secret, selfless socialist ideologue that he has intended all along for his signature piece of eponymous legislation to be a total failure -- a failure that would define his presidential legacy? Talk about taking one for the team!
Furthermore, if conservatives really believe Obamacare was designed to fail, then... why do they take such glee at every opportunity to declare it a failure? Aren't they playing right into Obama's diabolical hands? But ah, says the tinfoil hat crew, Obama didn't intend for it to fail so soon. Because he's so darn incompetent, see? He can't even screw up right. They say Obama intended for us to get good and used to Obamacare first, so that it could fail several years from now, just when we were about to... so that we would... you see then.... Oh, I can't follow this wacky line of reasoning any further.
By Julian Zelizer
November 11, 2013 | CNN