At this point it seems clear Trumpcare will fail. I predicted, the first time they floated it, that it would pass the House but its future in the Senate was a lot harder to see. I was partially right. It’s looking like they’re getting close to passing something like it in the House, but it has no chance in the Senate. This raises the question, why? Why when Obamacare was repealed dozens of times, finally making it to the president’s desk where it was vetoed? Now that they have a republican president it certainly seems like it would be an easy legislative victory. So what went wrong?
I put it to you that it’s because of a branding issue. Republicans for years said they would repeal and replace Obamacare. For those watching carefully, you might be able to see a problem. Give up? It’s the repeal part. If you’re capable of writing a bill so good that it can replace Obamacare, then why bother repealing it? Had they just said they were going to replace Obamacare, they would have had a much easier time of it. Now, when they’re passing legislation, they can’t pass anything too similar because then it doesn’t count as a repeal. This is doubly troubling, because Obamacare isn’t actually that bad. If you’re going to repeal it, then you need to make something amazing to replace it. And that just isn’t really possible. Getting everyone covered and paying less for it just can’t happen.
This is a problem years in the making. Republicans have said over and over they were going to repeal and replace. There’s no easy way out of this trap now. The best thing they can do, and the thing they seem least likely to do, is walk away. Say something like we can’t repeal and replace till we get a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Then move on to other things, where they can get a victory. Of course, this won’t be easy either. Their other goals are tax reform, immigration overhaul, and an infrastructure bill. They basically picked the most complicated things in the US to try and do over from scratch. Good luck. But if they’re going to try to do so, and the need a public campaign for help doing it, then they would be well served by looking at the failure of repeal and replace. Getting the messaging right is almost as important as getting the law right. In some ways more important. Laws you can change after the fact. Put out the wrong message, though, and that’s a much harder thing to change.