Egads, I am writing about horse race politics. If this keeps up, take me out back and put me out of my misery. But allow me this one post.
We have learned, or at least been reminded of late, that the executive branch wields vast power, especially via the "permanent government" in the regulatory agencies. A determined president -- and Barack Obama is nothing if not that -- can inflict so much hope and change by fiat that neither the courts nor Congress can possibly keep up. Whether one is an economic conservative, an "American greatness" conservative, or a social conservative, the power of the executive branch overwhelms the other two in its consequences. The Republicans could control most state governments -- oh wait -- and most people could live in states under partial or complete GOP governance -- oh wait -- and the right could dominate the United States Congress, and still the government that matters can move the country's actual policies sharply to the left. And never mind that the federal judiciary will also flip left if the Democrats win a third consecutive term, even if the GOP retains control of the Senate. The White House is the whole game. It is therefore more important to win the White House than any other branch of government, or any other part of the federal system.
Sadly, the Democrats seem to understand this, and the Republicans do not. The evidence for the latter is not to be found in immigration policy, or intransigence on marriage rights for gays, or the campus "rape crisis," or the argument over police practices, or in any of the other subjects that dominate the Googles on any given day. On these topics, I strongly suspect the left is peaking too soon, and they will not motivate many voters come 2016. Rather, the GOP will in all likelihood lose the White House because the swelling horde of candidates for the Republican nomination is forced, by the impracticality of its own primary voters, to entrench around one particular policy position that will cost Republicans the general election. This is indisputably the conservative insistence that the Affordable Care Act be "repealed" in some way, shape, or form. David Frum -- yeah, yeah, I know, but he can still be right -- is pretty good on this point in a short post at The Atlantic:
I’m going to put down a marker here. The next presidential election, like the last, will be decided by whether Democratic-leaning groups show up at the polls in large numbers—and maybe, at the margins, by whether the last few single percentage points of undecided voters choose “change” or “more of the same.” For those economically stressed toss-up voters—for the younger voters who sometimes show up and sometimes vote—the tipping point issue won’t be foreign policy. It won’t be ethics. It won’t be healthcare. It won’t even be the overall performance of the economy, which will be better, but still unwonderful. It will be that single haunting question, “Will I lose my insurance?”Frum is right. If the GOP cannot nominate a candidate without first making it impossible for that candidate to answer the insurance question emphatically "no," then that candidate will almost certainly lose. Why? Because there are too many people who feel insecure about their ability to pay for their own health care or that of a loved one. It does not matter that Obamacare is bad policy incompetently enacted and dishonestly implemented. It only matters that critical states are closely divided, and that -- as Frum proposes -- for those voters who are nervous about their ability to afford health insurance no other issue will come close. Beware and denounce, therefore, any candidate who tries to force upon the others any "pledge" that "if elected" Obamacare will be "repealed," "replaced," or so much as tweaked. All GOP candidates should repeat, endlessly and without variation, "if you have insurance today, you will have insurance after I'm elected." If absolutely forced to say more, perhaps "because consistency" or some other fool reason, just assert "our national experience is that all complicated laws can be improved after they are implemented, and all the litigation and confusing regulation around Obamacare suggests that it is no different." End of freaking story.
If they don’t hear a clear and convincing “No,” they’re going to assume the answer is “Yes”—and most likely, vote accordingly.
Then, if you are elected and blessed with a huge majority in Congress, do what the hell you want to do. That is exactly what the Democrats did in 2008, and it bought them eight years in the White House and the United States all the hope and change it could possibly endure.