Opposition Party Opposes Majority Party's Signature Policy: Will Democracy Survive???

“The only way to understand the press, Prime Minister, is to remember that they pander to their readers’ prejudices.”

Jonathan Chait has a frankly bizarre piece in New York Magazine explaining to what must be a puzzled audience’s insistent question: why does the Republican Party persist in opposing Obamacare? I mean, I know they hate kittens and everything, but c’mon—healthcare!

Now, off the top of my head, one reason why the Republican Party might oppose Obamacare is that it remains deeply unpopular, and that politicians tend to be responsive to public opinion.

But I think there’s an even bigger reason, and I have seen time and again how shocking it remains to many liberals, but nonetheless it must be said. I may be French, but I have been taken to Rove Mountain and been inducted in the secret society that runs the Republican Party and the conservative movement, taught all the secret handshakes and passwords (“Fidelio”), and so I can report back on the TRUE reason to conservative opposition to Obamacare. And it’s pretty shocking.

Are you ready?

Wait for it…

Conservatives think Obamacare is terrible policy.

Conservatives actually, seriously, deeply, genuinely, truly, strongly, really think Obamacare is really bad no good policy.

And so they oppose it.

No, really.

That’s the reason.

I know, I’m one of them.

Most, if not all, conservatives, myself very much included, think that Obamacare will make American healthcare worse and more expensive and will be too expensive and unnecessarily (and perhaps dangerously and irreversibly) expand the size of government (I realize that for progressives this latest a feature and not a bug, but conservatives don’t see it that way). They think that it will lead to millions if not tens of millions of people being worse, not better off, and many more dying too soon.

Maybe they’re wrong! But that’s what they think! And so they oppose the law!

Forgive me for being flip, but there is something a bit absurd about reading all this concern about the opposition party of a country opposing the majority party’s signature policy. From where I sit in France, the main right-wing party used to have a majority, and they cut taxes, and the main left-wing party opposed it ; then the left won elections, and now it is raising taxes, and the right-wing party opposes that. As far as I can tell in Great Britain the Labour Party opposes the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition’s austerity policies.

This is how democracy works. One party has some ideas about what’s good policy, the other party has other ideas, and so when one party wins the election, the other party is not happy about the policies that get implemented.

I mean, really. This is how democracy works.

Now, Chait notes that Republican opposition to Obamacare has been particularly virulent and trench-warfare-like.

Well, again, conservatives feel really strongly about Obamacare. Why, I’m almost as angry with it as I was with the Iraq War! (Which Democrats at several points tried to defund.)

And, again, Obamacare is very unpopular, which tends to put wind at politicians’ backs. (Chait notes this, but attributes it to Republicans’ well-known Dark Magick Powers Of Voter Brainwashing—you know, the ones that got Mitt Romney to sweep all 50 states.)

But it’s true that there’s another reason why conservative opposition to Obamacare has been so virulent, and it’s right there in Chait’s lede: “The Republican party has voted unanimously against establishing the Affordable Care Act in the Senate and then in the House of Representatives[.]”

Another, equally valid way to write this would be: “The Democratic party pushed the Affordable Care Act through Congress on a party-line vote in the Senate and then in the House of Representatives, in violation of the long-standing American political tradition of passing far-reaching initiatives only with bipartisan support.”

Regardless of whether reform-by-consensus is a good idea in the abstract (and as a partisan red in tooth and claw, I support it when I’m in the minority and oppose it when I’m in the majority), one reason why in the American system reform-by-consensus is advisable is because the American system includes so many checks and balances (legislatures, and courts, and states, and governors, and oh my) that if you were to just trample the Opposition, why, it just might use those checks and balances to try to block your reform anyway. You know, like the Founders intended.

If Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act is unprecedented, then, it’s because it’s a response to unprecedented actions by the Democratic Party.

Now, when this is pointed out, liberals often respond that Republicans did nothing about healthcare when they were in power and that Something Needed To Be Done. There’s less truth to this than many liberals think but a lot more than I am happy with, but as a matter of logic this is plainly absurd: even if Alice did nothing about the roach infestation, it doesn’t mean Bob was right to burn down the house to get rid of the roaches.

Now of course, liberals don’t view Obamacare as “burning down the house.” But conservatives do!

We really do.