It's looking increasingly likely that Republicans will win the Senate in the midterm elections, which means we can look forward to at least two more years of Washington doing nothing, and of permanent presidential campaigning and posturing — enough to make you forget that government is supposed to be about policy.
And there are important policies out there. Like ObamaCare. Maybe you've heard of it.
You may also have heard that the Republican Party is not exactly a huge fan of ObamaCare, that the GOP really, really, really wants to repeal ObamaCare, and not only wants to repeal ObamaCare, but "replace" it to boot.
But if you're a little hazy on the details of the "replace" part, don't feel too bad. Because the Republican Party has never said what this replacement ought to be.
There are understandable reasons for this, and not-so-understandable reasons for this.
The understandable reason is that most conservatives (myself included) genuinely feel that ObamaCare is a terrible policy and that overturning it is a valuable goal in itself. And conservatives recognize the practical political realities: It's a lot easier and more valuable in contemporary U.S. politics to make a case against a bad law than to make a case for a good one. If the GOP had put forward its own proposal, the Democrats would have been quick to demagogue it, changing the discussion.
The less understandable reason is that the GOP doesn't really have a good or clear health-care agenda, because it's a topic the party just hasn't thought too much about. Plus, any valuable proposal would risk angering some interest group. Many conservative ideas on health care are either pie-in-the-sky utopian free-market ideas that (much to my chagrin) would never become law, or ideas that tinker around the edges but are essentially meaningless.
But it's time to actually take a stand for an actual proposal, and put something on the table, and have a Republican Congress pass it. Sure, Obama will veto it, but it will set the groundwork for a future Republican administration.
The next Republican administration will have a serious chance to change health-care policy for the good in the U.S. But conservatives should be aware of a problem: There are some moderate Republicans who actually don't feel very strongly about repealing ObamaCare. They would much rather pass a law that doesn't really alter the status quo, and doesn't anger constituencies or voters, and still say they "repealed and replaced ObamaCare."
To prevent this, it's now time for real conservatives inside the GOP to take a stand not just against something, but for something.
Conservative health-care scholar Jim Capretta actually has such a proposal, and it's the best one that can pass Congress. It increases coverage while moving the U.S. closer to a free market in health care and helping to reduce costs. Here are the basics:
[Capretta] calls for an ObamaCare replacement that would rely on a decentralized, market-oriented approach to the health-care system; offer tax credits for people outside the employer system achieved with minimal disruption of employer coverage; guarantee continuous coverage protection for all Americans; and grant states significant flexibility to meet the needs of their most vulnerable citizens... [It] would expand coverage by as much as ObamaCare while spending far less. [YG Network]
You can't just be against something. You have to be for something, too. And to set the groundwork for the next administration, it's now time for conservatives take a stand not just against ObamaCare, but for a sound conservative alternative.