During the Obama years, a potent mythology has taken root in Democratic circles. In this narrative, Democrats are victims, martyrs even, whereas Republicans are wily tricksters.
Last year, there was a hyped-up fable about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. President Barack Obama told “60 Minutes,” “When I first came into office, the head of the Senate Republicans said, ‘My No. 1 priority is making sure President Obama’s a one-term president.'” Sen. Dianne Feinstein even told the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board she heard McConnell speaking to that effect on the Senate’s opening day.
The thing is that the quote in question first appeared nearly two years later — in an October 2010 interview with the National Journal’s Major Garrett.
The latest iteration of Democrats-on-the-cross works like this: Obamacare hasn’t delivered the big savings promised by the president — $2,500 annually for the average family — because Democrats ditched the single-payer model to mollify Republicans. In the Los Angeles Times, Harvard professor Jane Mansbridge writes, “The Democratic Party reluctantly adopted RomneyCare, a.k.a. Obamacare, to get Republican approval.” What’s more, House Republicans “coerced the Democrats into adopting a Republican health insurance reform plan.”
A reader emails me, “The Republicans who hate Obama would not permit the creation of a decent single payer plan which would allow private insurance carriers to participate on a competitive uniform benefit program.” Another insists, “We wanted single payer! The GOP did not — that was the compromise, and it was one of many from this president.”
Really? The Affordable Care Act did not win a single Republican vote on the House or Senate floor. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi abandoned single-payer to win GOP votes, they are the most incompetent negotiators in history.
Former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, voted for the Obama stimulus package and a measure to end “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In her book, “Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress,” Snowe recalls how 40 House Republicans voted with 249 Democrats to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, only to watch Democrats unveil a stimulus package with no GOP input a week later.
There was little spirit of bipartisanship when Pelosi crowed: “Yes, we wrote the bill. Yes, we won the election.”
When Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., rolled out his draft legislation in 2009, he didn’t have a single Republican at his side. When the Senate Finance Committee voted on two Democratic public-option proposals — to allow government plans to compete with private insurers — Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, denounced the public option as “a Trojan horse for a single-payer system.” Let it be noted that centrist Democrats joined Republicans to defeat both measures.
In “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama laid out a plan for universal coverage that allowed private carriers, such as Blue Cross and Aetna, to compete with new state pools. Still, he didn’t stick his neck out to push for Democrats’ public-option proposals.
In a 2003 speech, Obama, a second-term state senator, called himself “a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program.” PolitiFact, however, couldn’t find a similar blank-check statement. The fact-checking organization observes that as Obama became a more well-known national figure, he spoke “favorably of single-payer in concept, but always (added) qualifiers.”
Snowe voted for the Democrats’ health bill to get it out of committee, but it never won her support on the floor. You see, Snowe foresaw Obamacare’s big problem. As she wrote (my italics), “not one single member in Congress — Republican or Democrat — could answer whether the newly created health insurance plans would be affordable , yet we hurtled headlong toward a final vote on a monumental bill affecting every American.”
In a savvier Republicans-ruined-Obamacare argument, Washington Post wonk-blogger Ezra Klein contends that the Democratic part of Obamacare — Medicaid, which is single-payer — works. But: “The part of Obamacare that’s troubled is the part Democrats lifted from Republican policymakers. It’s the part that tries to integrate private insurance companies with government systems in order to create a universal insurance system that’s subsidized by the state but run by private companies.”
Get it? If Obamacare fails, it’s because Obamacare is a Republican plan.
Now, I won’t deny that two decades ago, some conservative think tank swell came up with the term “individual mandate” — which allowed other wonks to try to pin the tail on the elephant. But if liberals have to fish for a 1989 Heritage Foundation policy paper that had no Republican support in 2008, 2009 or 2012 to establish Republican paternity for the Affordable Care Act, that tells you one thing: They think Obamacare won’t work.