Ode To Barry
By Matt McDonald | January 8, 2017, 9:42 EST
You know those sappy debate questions where the moderator asks each of the candidates to say something nice about the other one?
Here are the poor candidates, having spent the past 88 minutes and the previous umpteen months eviscerating each other. (Often correctly, too — a politician saying positive things is usually lying, but when he attacks his opponents he’s often telling the truth.)
And now they’re being asked to undermine their own candidacy by pumping up the candidacy of the other one. They have to smile and come up with something vaguely pleasant without being so compelling that the voters might want to support the enemy.
Those types of questions are usually squirm-worthy.
But I’m going to give it a shot.
I’m going to say something nice about the current president of the United States.
As one who likes watching politics, my favorite moment of the Barack Obama presidency was when he rammed Obamacare through Congress.
I have to get into the weeds a bit here to make my point, but please follow along.
Remember the scene in early 2010. Obamacare was a deeply unpopular idea in the country. (As it still is.) But the Democrats had the votes in both houses of Congress because of their success in the November 2008 election.
At one point in 2009 the health care bill looked like a done deal. Even though (most of) the Republicans in the Senate were willing to block it through a filibuster, the Democrats had the 60 votes they needed to break the filibuster.
The House passed a bill. The Senate passed a different bill. All the Democrats needed was for the two houses to get together and hammer out a bill that both houses could pass.
Then, in August 2009, Ted Kennedy died. That brought the Democrats’ pro-Obamacare majority down to 59. That was one short of what they needed.
The next January a special election in Massachusetts unexpectedly put a Republican, Scott Brown, into the Senate. He vowed to support the filibuster and effectively kill Obamacare.
It was over.
Or was it?
Democrats came up with an end-around play. They decided to try to reconcile the competing versions of the health care bill between the House and the Senate by tacking one of them onto an existing budget bill, which couldn’t be filibustered. That means in order to pass the bill just needed a simple majority, which the Democrats easily had. That made Scott Brown irrelevant.
It was against the rules. It was dirty. It was technically illegal.
And it worked.
We’ve been stuck with Obamacare ever since, because President Obama refused to stick to the rules of the United States Congress.
I remember at the time being both appalled and thrilled. Appalled, because Obamacare is a terrible idea that was always going to harm health care, hurt the economy, and curtail freedom. (As it has.)
Thrilled, because I appreciated what the president was willing to do to get something done that he believed in.
I remember thinking at the time: The Republicans would never fight like that.
Or would they?
We’re about to find out.
One of the reasons Donald Trump won the presidency is that Republican primary voters sensed in him a street fighter who would not fold under pressure the way Republicans have for decades.
Looks like his first test is Obamacare.
If he goes along with the wait-two-years crowd, there’s a good chance Obamacare is here forever. That’s the way politics is. Strike while the iron is hot, or soon it cools and it becomes so hard you can’t even dent it.
The best result would be to replace Obamacare with something that respects individual economic decisions, respects freedom of conscience, provides a path to lower outrageous health care costs that have grown out of proportion largely because of government subsidies, and provides (at as local a level as possible) health care for people who truly can’t provide for themselves.
The second best result is chaos — that is, repeal Obamacare, blow it up, and don’t replace it at all. We’d have a mess on our hands, but at least we’d have a chance to fix it in the future, and at least we’d have our freedom back.
The worst option is doing nothing.
Mr. Trump: You didn’t get here by doing nothing.