Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Crush the AHCA, then Hammer Republicans with it Anyway

There's some chatter that Democrats actually hope that House Republicans manage to pass the AHCA (aka, Obamacare repeal), on the grounds that (a) it will fail the Senate anyway and (b) it will make for a great cudgel to use against Republicans in the midterms (in fairness, I haven't seen anyone actually make this argument themselves so much as vague speculation imputing to unnamed House Dems). Objections to this strategy have generally focused on the "I hope Trump wins because he'll be so easy to beat" failure of risk assessment. And I don't disagree with that. But I also think this outlook is unduly constrained in how it assesses political strategy. So allow me to make the following counterproposal:

Crush the AHCA, then hammer Republicans with it anyway.

The "logic" behind letting the AHCA pass the House is that it lends itself to great attack ads against vulnerable Republicans come 2018. But the average American isn't paying attention to whether a bill actually comes up for a vote. They simply are hearing about a Republican healthcare plan which they hate. There's no significant obstacle to tying Republicans to that plan even if it never comes to a vote, let alone never passes. Write up a bunch of ads about how Republicans want to eliminate the protections for persons with preexisting conditions or remove essential-coverage provisions for pregnant women, and let them loose. An actual GOP vote on the bill is neither necessary nor, I think, will it prove particularly relevant.

The 2018 midterms are not going to depend on which bills pass which houses of Congress, or even how any particular candidate votes (or manages to avoid voting). It's going to depend on how Americans view the incumbent party in general on key issues like healthcare. Solidify in the public mind that the AHCA represents what Republicans think about healthcare, then beat them with it like they tried to steal something (say, something like millions of Americans' healthcare).

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