A tale of two parties

My recollection, and I was writing about it pretty much daily at the time, was that passing the Affordable Care Act was pretty difficult business, involving a ton of work by President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Obama held countless meetings with Republicans and Democrats, including more than one public forum.
Senate Democrats worked for months with a group of Senate Republicans to shape a bill that could find bipartisan support. (Republicans, sadly, were not working in good faith.)
The bill was introduced nearly a year before it would win final passage.
There was endless debate, and endless lies from the right, about what was in the bill. Experts weighed in. Insurance companies, hospital associations, doctors, other interest groups all participated in the long, rigorous debate.
Passage was arduous and difficult.
But the policy goal was clear: Make health care coverage more affordable for more Americans. Begin bending the cost curve of medical inflation to bring it closer to normal inflation. Preserve Medicare and expand Medicaid.
Watching Republicans thrash about trying to dismantle Obamacare — something they’ve been waiting nearly eight years to accomplish — is an entirely different experience.
They’ve attempted to push through bill after bill, all of them written in secret. No debate. No public hearings or other forums.
And, more importantly, no clear idea — beyond erasing the signature policy achievement of America’s first black president — of the policy goal they’re attempting to achieve.
The Republican “repeal and replace” bills wouldn’t have expanded access to health care. They would have restricted it. They wouldn’t have made health care coverage more affordable; they would have made it more expensive. They wouldn’t have preserved Medicare or expanded Medicaid.

The policy goal appeared to be to reduce health care spending in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy.

For the moment, thankfully, those efforts seem to have collapsed. The “repeal and we promise to come up with something better in the next two years than what we managed in the last eight years” gambit has also, apparently, failed — though, inexplicably, they are moving forward with trying to bring it to a vote.
I think the process used to pass Obamacare and the process attempted to repeal it are very illuminating about the state of America’s two parties.

One party wants to govern. It wants to make life better for Americans. It is willing to discuss policy ideas and goals and work on different ways to reach them.

The other party cares about power, and about winning. Once it gains power, it doesn’t seem to know what to do with it, beyond trying to cut taxes on the wealthy.

Democrats are far from perfect. They need a more coherent vision. They also sometimes seem to want power for power’s sake. But they can govern, and they want to govern. The Republican Party has no center, no guiding principle — which is how they ended up with Donald Trump as a leader.

I hope the Republican Party heals itself, but it may be too late. America may need a genuinely conservative party to start from scratch. The sooner the better.

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