As Obamacare goes, says Charles Krauthammer, so goes the fate of what he calls “transformational liberalism.” The problems and unintended consequences of the former, he says, may discredit what has been the driving ideology of the Democrats.
At stake. . .is more than the fate of one presidency or of the current Democratic majority in the Senate. At stake is the new, more ambitious, social-democratic brand of American liberalism introduced by Obama, of which Obamacare is both symbol and concrete embodiment.
Precisely when the GOP was returning to a more constitutionalist conservatism committed to reforming, restructuring and reining in the welfare state (see, for example, the Paul Ryan Medicare reform passed by House Republicans with near-unanimity), Obama offered a transformational liberalism designed to expand the role of government, enlarge the welfare state and create yet more new entitlements (see, for example, his call for universal preschool in his most recent State of the Union address).
The centerpiece of this vision is, of course, Obamacare, the most sweeping social reform in the past half-century, affecting one-sixth of the economy and directly touching the most vital area of life of every citizen.
As the only socially transformational legislation in modern American history to be enacted on a straight party-line vote, Obamacare is wholly owned by the Democrats. Its unraveling would catastrophically undermine their underlying ideology of ever-expansive central government providing cradle-to-grave care for an ever-grateful citizenry.
For four years, this debate has been theoretical. Now it’s real. And for Democrats, it’s a disaster.
It begins with the bungled rollout. If Washington can’t even do the Web site — the literal portal to this brave new world — how does it propose to regulate the vast ecosystem of American medicine?
Beyond the competence issue is the arrogance. Five million freely chosen, freely purchased, freely renewed health-care plans are summarily canceled. Why? Because they don’t meet some arbitrary standard set by the experts in Washington.
For all his news conference gyrations about not deliberately deceiving people with his “if you like it” promise, the law Obama so triumphantly gave us allows you to keep your plan only if he likes it. This is life imitating comedy — that old line about a liberal being someone who doesn’t care what you do as long as it’s mandatory.
Lastly, deception. The essence of the entitlement state is government giving away free stuff. Hence Obamacare would provide insurance for 30 million uninsured, while giving everybody tons of free medical services — without adding “one dime to our deficits,” promised Obama.
The reaction to the incompetence, arrogance and deception has ranged from ridicule to anger. But more is in jeopardy than just panicked congressional Democrats. This is the signature legislative achievement of the Obama presidency, the embodiment of his new entitlement-state liberalism. If Obamacare goes down, there will be little left of its underlying ideology. . . .
If it does fail, the effect will be historic. Obamacare will take down with it more than Mary Landrieu and Co. It will discredit Obama’s new liberalism for years to come.