A PoliSci Perspective on the AHCA’s Demise

Worth a read at the Monkey Cage:  President Trump couldn’t pass Obamacare repeal. This is why.

FILED UNDER: Political Theory, US Politics, ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. An Interested Party says:

    It also reminds us of the evergreen truth that people like benefits, once they have them; the case for taking those benefits away is difficult for legislators to make.

    This is a critical point…while some Republicans/conservatives recognize this, a lot of the members of the Freedom Caucus seem not to or don’t care…as long as they keep that mindset, they will be a hopeless minority, unable to get anything accomplished other than gumming up the works…which will certainly be a relief to the country as a whole, as none of their hard right ideas will ever be enacted…good job, fellas…

  2. DrDaveT says:

    Even more basic than “It’s harder to take a benefit away than to give it in the first place” is the comment I heard on Meet the Press this morning*. To wit, for many Americans the question is no longer whether the government should provide some minimal level of guaranteed healthcare, but rather what that level should be. That’s a huge change, and a major blow to the Grover agenda.

    *Yeah, I know. I’m sick and had nothing better to do while trying to breathe through my nose.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    To wit, for many Americans the question is no longer whether the government should provide some minimal level of guaranteed healthcare, but rather what that level should be.

    Indeed…Republicans/conservatives need to get over their desire to get rid of so many of the New Deal and Great Society programs as they aren’t going away, no matter what scare tactics and ideological arguments are used against them…

  4. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    And the bill was a crap sandwich. Not even a good one at that; just crap on wonder bread with miracle whip. No heirloom tomatoes, tarragon aioli mayo, or anything. Even Trump supporters could see what it was. This was so bad I’m not even sure that Trump will get sympathy for the “no support from the Democrats” tweet. Normally he would. This time, I have my doubts

  5. Kylopod says:

    There’s more to it than simply the fact that it’s hard to take away benefits. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are all wildly popular programs, which has been the case pretty much consistently from the time they were first enacted. That’s why Republican politicians who attempt to privatize these programs out of existence all claim to be saving the programs. They recognize that the only way they’ll ever get rid of them is by pretending they’re doing the opposite.

    Obamacare is different. Until very recently, it has suffered from low poll numbers. These polls were always misleading to some degree, as they usually lumped those who wanted to get rid of the law together with those who wanted to see it expanded. But one way or another, they’re what deluded Republicans into thinking there was little political downside to repeal.

    The unpopularity of Obamacare has rested almost entirely on people’s ignorance of what the law actually does. Perhaps the biggest myth of all is that Obamacare is a thing. Whatever name you choose to call the law by–Obamacare, the ACA, or whatever–it never referred to a single program, but to a range of diverse policies that the majority of the public still has no idea comes from this law. The Medicaid expansion is “Obamacare.” The subsidies are “Obamacare.” The ban on preexisting conditions discrimination is “Obamacare.” The employer mandate is “Obamacare.” Young adults being allowed to stay on their parents’ plans is “Obamacare.”

    The GOP strategy from the start rested on deliberately misleading the public about any of the law’s actual functions. They attacked a law that provided benefits by pretending it took away benefits. And they claimed that their own proposals to eliminate said benefits were in fact proposals to restore them. This was far from normal political spin: it was a topsy-turvy, Orwellian campaign where they presented both their own policies as well as the ones they opposed as the absolute, polar opposite of what they actually were. It was the equivalent of waging war against a country while telling the public they were signing a peace treaty.

    And the amazing thing was, it worked–up to a point. Even now, a substantial portion of the public lives in abject ignorance of what “Obamacare” really is. And that will probably continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. It’s different with the older social programs. If you’re a politician in the US, you can attack Medicare or Medicaid, just not by name. In contrast, you can quite easily attack Obamacare by name. But you can’t go much farther than that. I guess the lesson of what happened last week is that benefits are benefits. Even if loads of voters don’t have a clue where they come from, they’re bound to notice once they’re gone.

  6. Pch101 says:

    It would seem that Trump’s cheeseball business tendencies got the better of him.

    He tried to create a sense of urgency, but the other side didn’t buy it.

    He suggested that he had leverage, but the other side knew that he didn’t have it.

    He tried to push and threaten the other side about the supposed need to close quickly, but the other side knew that it was Trump who was the only one who had a short timeframe and that he had no leverage.

    Trump didn’t have anything to horsetrade, so the whole thing will hit the wall.

    Given Trump’s need to do something and the establishment’s propensity for caving in to the far right, there will be some sort of deal to kill Obamacare that is designed to appease the far right.

    The country is being led by an oaf who can be manipulated by extremists at home and thugs abroad. The sheep who supported him will deserve what they get.

  7. Joe says:

    Entitlement programs are, by nature, a redistribution of wealth from the smaller number of rich to the larger number of poor. Thus, ending an entitlement program is, by nature, a redistribution of wealth from a large number of poor to a small number of rich. One can certainly argue about the justice or policy goals of either action. But you are gonna need a whole lot more political cover, clout and endurance to do the second and nobody in the current administration or Congress seemed to have any idea.