IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

A thin message gets thinner

Can Obamacare troubles help Republicans overcome a lack of accomplishments, a lack of an agenda, and broad unpopularity? GOP leaders think so.
The empty hand of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), October 23, 2013.
The empty hand of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), October 23, 2013.
On Friday, The Hill published an interesting item noting that when it comes to this Congress and next year's midterms, House Republicans are focused on their hatred of the Affordable Care Act "and little else."

Nearly midway through the 113th Congress, House Republicans don't have much to show for their majority. Party leaders this week signaled they will punt on two of the major items that began the year at the top of its agenda: immigration and tax reform. And while the GOP has focused all year on highlighting problems with President Obama's healthcare law, a vote on a replacement for ObamaCare is nowhere in sight.

And yet, Republicans seem oddly confident about their political standing just a month after their government-shutdown fiasco. Congressional Republicans have no legislative accomplishment, no policy agenda to speak of, and no interest in tackling popular measures, many of which have already passed the Senate.
But, GOP officials insist, they have their opposition to "Obamacare," and may not need anything else.
At a certain level, the party's preoccupation is understandable. On nearly every issue on the national policy landscape, the Republican position is wholly at odds with that of the American mainstream. On immigration, minimum wage, gun violence, marriage, etc., the GOP position is the minority position.
But at least as a package, the Affordable Care Act is unpopular (polling on the law's individual provisions show broad public support for what the law does, if not the law itself). So long as health care reform is the dominant issue, and Republicans can say, "You don't like Obamacare and neither do we," the party thinks it can get by without accomplishments, agendas, or public support on any other issue. GOP officials even believe this can help them overcome demographic challenges.
There's some empirical evidence that this hasn't worked so far, but the GOP remains hopeful anyway.
Chris Cillizza makes the case that Republicans are making a mistake assuming "the problems with Obamacare [are] a panacea for all that ails the party."
"Republicans need to understand that their political problems are neither tactical nor transitory," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). "They are structural and demographic. The hard truth is the GOP coalition constitutes a shrinking portion of the electorate. To change that daunting reality, Republicans must appeal to groups that are currently outside their ranks or risk becoming a permanent minority."
Many in the party, struggling to think ahead, believe their appeal will broaden by promising to take away Americans' health care benefits, replacing the system with a reform rival they can neither explain nor identify. I'm eager to see how that works out for them.