Remember how for years after President Obama first got elected we had to hear all about how Republicans destroyed the economy?
They had driven the car into the ditch, the president complained. Republicans were standing around, drinking their big Slurpee, Mr. Obama would add, laughing at his own unfunny joke. It was entirely up to him and the Democrats, he would say, to get America’s car out of the ditch. And then Republicans had the audacity to want the keys back!
As with just about every other thing the former president said, it was pretty much a complete lie.
We now know that all the economic ruin Mr. Obama “inherited” was the result of the collapse in the housing market, caused by liberal Democratic government policies that forced banks to make bad housing loans to people who could not afford them.
Fast-forward eight years to today, when America’s health care system is worse than “in the ditch.” Disastercare has jumped the ditch and flipped over the guardrail and is now teetering on a cliff about to slide off into the abyss.
And while there may have been some stupid, reckless Republicans (In Name Only) who eight years ago abetted Democrats in their dangerous scheme to saddle the poor with unaffordable housing loans, there was not one single Republican in Congress who supported Mr. Obama’s dangerous scheme to destroy health care in this country. Not a single one.
And yet here we are today, and the entire onus on fixing Disastercare rests squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and congressional Republicans. Mr. Obama and his “Choom Gang” Democrats are standing around whistling and smoking their joints. They are not even asking for the keys back.
Mr. Trump, who has more statesmanship in his large, handsome pinky finger than Mr. Obama has in his whole body, has accepted the responsibility. It is not the poor’s fault that Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats screwed them, Mr. Trump says. He and Republicans on Capitol Hill must fix the mess.
This is the noble and decent thing to do. But it is also wrongheaded and political suicide.
Mr. Trump has noted that the politically expedient thing for Republicans to do right now would be just to stand back and watch Obamacare collapse and keep reminding voters that this is what happens when you put stupid, dishonest and power-hungry Democrats in charge.
But there is a wiser middle-ground approach to fixing the Obamacare debacle that Mr. Trump and Republicans in Congress should chart instead.
Yes, put together Republicans’ more market-based plans for salvaging Disastercare. Even include their crazy new tax credit entitlement program that should cause any decent conservative to break out in hives.
But — and this is crucial — demand that Democrats in Congress come to the table and support this rescue mission to fix the disastrous mess they created. Mr. Trump should play hardball with vulnerable Democrats and threaten to campaign against them if they do not support this plan.
The new GOP entitlement plan is living proof that Republicans are coming well more than halfway to accommodate Democrats on health care. And, yes, it will make Obamacare work a little bit better. But it will also save hundreds of Democratic politicians from the wrath of voters if Obamacare is allowed to collapse.
Force these Democrats to take part in cleaning up the mess they’ve made. Meanwhile, principled conservatives in the Republican Party who are opposed to Obamacare or Obamacare-lite should be given a free pass. It should be up to the people who invented Obamacare to fix it.
In the end, if Democrats refuse to fix the mess and millions of poor people suffer the dire consequences of Mr. Obama’s and congressional Democrats’ failed policies, then Mr. Trump and Republicans can say they made a valiant and selfless effort to fix it.
Then go to the polls and fight the issue in the next campaign. Mr. Trump and Republicans in Congress can pin not only the original Obamacare mess on Democrats, but they can also pin the failure to fix the mess on them.
Under Mr. Trump’s leadership and political smarts, the Republican Party would enjoy gains in both the House and the Senate in the 2018 midterms. Not only would it be sweet punishment for Democrats who deserve to be drummed out of office forever, but the results also would strengthen Republicans’ hands for finally fixing the whole sordid disaster.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter via @charleshurt.
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