A Wall Street Journal editorial today laments the failure of Republicans to openly run on repealing the Affordable Care Act:
Republicans haven't fit ObamaCare into their guiding political and economic narrative, which is built around the recovery and jobs (or lack thereof) and the GOP perennials of taxes and spending. The "repeal and replace" catch-phrase did earn a mention in the House campaign manifesto, details to come, but it is clearly a subsidiary theme. A National Journal survey of 91 leading Republican strategists in late September found that only 2% ranked ObamaCare as the party's top electoral priority, and 7% as the second choice.
The danger is that if the party doesn't use the campaign to create a mandate, it won't be strategically positioned to repeal, let alone replace.
Right -- this isn't very complicated. Repealing health care reform is unpopular. That's why Republicans won't do it. They're sticking to their popular position of opposing the unpopular parts of the Affordable Care Act while favoring the popular parts, and/or supporting some fantasy alternative that they can't define because it can't be created.
But if Republicans win, do you think the Journal will come out and admit then that they don't have a mandate to repeal health care reform? I'm taking bets.
Meanwhile, Fred Barnes explicitly defends Republicans for declining to advocate specific alternative policies:
If all goes well for Republicans in the midterm elections, they’ll capture the House and maybe the Senate, having revealed few specifics of what they might do in the next Congress. This makes sense. It’s the Chris Christie strategy.
Christie was elected governor of New Jersey last year after giving voters no more than a glimpse of his plans for the state. The reason was simple. Had he laid out his sweeping agenda of spending and tax cuts, he’d have given Democrats an inviting target. They surely would have tried to scare voters away from Christie, and it might have worked. Instead he concentrated on Democratic governor Jon Corzine as the main issue—and won.
For Republicans this year, the Christie strategy calls for making President Obama, Democrats, and their policies (jobs, spending, deficit, debt, Obamacare) the issue, while going light on the particulars of their own hopes and plans. An example is the Pledge to America issued by House Republicans. It’s more vague than specific, and properly so. It fits the strategy.
Now I know what you're thinking: what do the Journal editorial page and Fred Barnes think about the practice of politicians enacting policies without a mandate when the other party does it? You may not be surprised to learn that they have a slightly more critical disposition. Here's the Journal in 2009:
As a candidate, Barack Obama was at pains to offer himself as a man of moderate policies, and especially of moderate temperament. He said he would listen to both the right and left, choosing the best of each depending on "what works." He sold himself as a center-left pragmatist…Mr. Obama can't succeed on his current course of governing from the left. He is running into political trouble not because his own message is unclear, or because his opposition is better organized. Mr. Obama is falling in the polls because last year he didn't tell the American people that the "change" they were asked to believe in included trillions of dollars in new spending, deferring to the most liberal Members of Congress, a government takeover of health care, and appointees with the views of Van Jones.
In fact, Obama compromised on a great number of policies, which explains much of the angst among Congressional liberals. The Affordable Care Act is a compromise version of the detailed plan Obama ran on in 2008.
Anyway, let us carry on. Here is Barnes in 2009:
Obama's situation is the same as Bill Clinton's in 1993. Clinton had run for president as a moderate, just as Obama ran as a pragmatic, rather than an ideological, liberal. But both turned sharply liberal once in the White House. Clinton alienated the political center by promoting a government-run health care plan, gays in the military, and midnight basketball as a crime-fighting tool. Obama is doing the same--at least he's starting to--with his bid to enact the most far-reaching and costly set of liberal programs since the New Deal.
It's almost as if their principles about these things are mere cover for partisan preferences.