The rollout of the new health-care law is as incompetent as the Bush Administration’s implementation of a new government in Iraq; the difference is no one has died yet. Neither administration, it seems, had a contingency plan for success. Republicans are understandably gleeful; Ed Rogers even had the courage to say publicly yesterday what many Republicans in Washington say privately: He is rooting for the new health-care law to fail.
But unlike the tragic failure in Iraq, the troubles with the Affordable Care Act will not create decisive political energy. Bush’s war in Iraq reset the political landscape in 2006 and 2008, and some Republicans seem confident that 2014 and 2016 will be years where they ride the failure of Obamacare to victory. (The more sober see the opportunity as limited: a needed counterweight to the Republican debacle of the shutdown and playing footsie with default.) This optimism is misplaced for two reasons. First, the “surge” going on right now to fix the problems with the exchange sign-ups is likely to work; and, more basically, the Republicans have no alternative. Some months ago, the Republicans poll-tested bumper sticker on Obamacare changed. “Replace” got removed and it now simply reads: “Repeal.” What the Republicans can’t seem to learn is that many of the principles of the new health law (greater access) and many of the specific features (insurance reforms) remain overwhelmingly popular. You can’t beat bad with nothing.