Who will lead the left beyond Obamacare?

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the economy during a visit to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois July 24, 2013. Obama sought to inject momentum into his economic and domestic policy agenda on Wednesday with a speech designed to clarify his vision for his second term and hammer Republicans in the House of Representatives for getting in his way. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)
President Obama (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

It is remarkable that no elected Democrat has seized the moment to advocate repeal of Obamacare — in favor of a single-payer system. This was the plan all along; Obamacare was the fallback when the public option, a stalking horse for single-payer, went down. Liberals were right in a sense when they said a complex system would befuddle the administrators and the public. They wanted a “public option,” (when the government with taxpayer support “competes” with the private-sector insurers, it is only a matter of time until the latter go out of business.) Then-Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) sunk the single payer system — earning the enmity of the left. (By the way, consider whether, in his support for the war, his opposition to single-payer health-care reform and his leadership on gays in the military, he is the most important senator in the last decade or so.)

It was the Obama White House that refused to go to the mat on single-payer. The thinking was that Democrats needed to pass something — anything — and fix it later. But Democrats then lost the House and were in for a long siege with the GOP. Obama insisted on campaigning on nothing other than Mitt Romney’s supposed awfulness in 2012, so he had no mandate for his second term. Now he is caught up in the debacle, which flows not only from his own executive dereliction but also from the original decision to go with a veritable Rube Goldberg health-care plan.

Who will take the plunge, going to the left of the White House, outfoxing Hillary Clinton and grabbing the base by the lapels? Maybe Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Howard Dean? Perhaps a clever former senator like Russ Feingold (Wis.). Or maybe House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). It is remarkable, really, that the left is so passive, so cowed by the White House still that no one sees the opportunity to extricate himself or herself from the Obamacare mess. Defending Obama and his health-care plan is a loser.

The message practically writes itself: I was one of those who wanted the public option because I knew exactly where this half-fish, half-fowl health-care creature would lead. If Medicare is good enough for the old, why not for the young?! That Joe Lieberman and the inept White House (need I say more) got us into this mess. The problem isn’t that the implementation is messed up; it is that the entire project was doomed to fail. That’s why I opposed it then and why we need to get rid of it now. We’ve got to stop defending Obama and start defending the American people.

You get the idea. The left-wing media apparently is so nervous about losing invites to off-the-record spin sessions with the White House that they’ve forgotten the president will be gone in three years and, with him, the notion that health care can be managed by the federal government. Indeed, Obama has done more to undermine the liberal welfare state than Ronald Reagan did. Maybe the way to get their readers and the base pumped up is to stop carrying water for a sinking president.

Then conservatives can put forth their plan — a market-based system in which the consumer/patient drives the insurance market. Both sides can agree that Obamacare is a bust and then duke it out to sway the public their way. They’ve tried the Obamacare contraption and it failed. Won’t somebody on the left admit it?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.
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Jennifer Rubin | December 6, 2013