Once we get past the issue of how the government shutdown was poorly handled by a minority of Republicans, we can see that perhaps Republicans have a valid point about a flawed law that is having a dubious beginning thus far.
Since the beginning of the health care reform debate starting after the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, there has been more focus on the politics of the legislative process and eventual law commonly known as Obamacare than there has been on the actual “nuts-and-bolts” of the changes.
From the Tea Party-driven protests during the summer of 2009 and the spring of 2010 to the Supreme Court validation of this health care “tax” (according to Chief Justice John Roberts), Americans have looked more at the fighting between the passionate political right and its opposition to the Affordable Care Act instead of observing the law, its effectiveness, and its impact thus far. Now, with the federal government shut down due to a small group on Capitol Hill over their opposition (and how this opposition has been expressed) than the merit of the position.
Perhaps the government should not be currently shut down to derail Obamacare in 2013, especially since there were ample opportunities to address this in 2011 and 2012 at times when President Obama was more politically vulnerable and willing to negotiate with Republicans.
And perhaps some of the analogies used by some Republicans (including that the Affordable Care Act is as bad from a liberty standpoint as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850) are horrible reflections of how bad political messaging has become at times within the Beltway.
Yet, with that said, we have to admit: Republicans have a point, once we examine what is going on with Obamacare. The legality of a law does not make that law a good law, a moral law, or a functional law. While laws enforcing slavery, Jim Crow, voter suppression, and other liberty-inhibiting travesties were flawed in the extreme, Obamacare shares a narrow yet common trait with other flawed pieces of legislation found throughout American history. Laws deemed constitutional by the courts do not mean that they are inherently good for our communities, reflective of the needs of Americans, or rooted in the spirit of the American Dream of liberty and justice for all.
Obamacare may be legal, but Republicans have a point in wanting this law delayed, modified, or repealed from its current form – even if their methods for addressing the glitches of this legislation are mistimed or misguided. There is enough evidence out there to make the case aside from the political animus.
From the exceptions granted to constituents of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to the on-going self-repeal of the ACA through Obama-mandated delays to implementing the law, it is becoming clear that the law – though well-intended – has enough technical and process-related problems that an overall delay of executing the law in its current form has merit. Reports of employers capping labor hours to avoid acquiescing to the insurance-providing requirement further highlights that, perhaps, there are enough bureaucratic, economic, and technical hang-ups within a 2000-page, wide-ranging law (that Americans were told to “pass the bill before you can find out what’s in it…”) that further pausing Obamacare and its inconsistent effects on Americans and our economy makes sense – even if some of the rhetoric behind the effort to delay Obamacare might not. If 3 years of planning to implement Obamacare since its pursuit in 2009 and passage in 2010 has yielded the sloppy results we have experienced in 2013, a decision to delay its implementation (including the controversial individual mandate) in order to buy more time to smooth out the rough spots makes sense for the nation, even if the decision does provide Mr. Obama’s arch-nemesis with a much-needed win.
Politically, there is a lot that comes with that decision, from public embarrassment from Democrats nationally to marring the Obama presidential legacy. Practically, Republicans have a point. Historically, if President Obama wants to cement his legacy as the president that ushered in necessary and effective health care reform for Americans, he must be willing to admit that he did not win the day because he won the legal battle over his signature legislation. Pragmatically, his team must admit that the law may be legal in its current form, but the law is also not ready for the common good of America right now.
LENNY MCALLISTER ( @lennymcallister ) is an internationally-recognized political commentator and former congressional candidate appearing on Al Jazeera America this Saturday at 7:30am Eastern and is regularly featured on several national and international outlets including Canada’s Sun News Network, CNN, Radio New Zealand and Sirius-XM Radio. His daily podcast “Get Right with Lenny McAllister” can be found 12pm Eastern on www.LennyMcAllister.com. Catch Lenny’s “The McAllister Minute” regularly on The American Urban Radio Network.
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