In modern American politics, conservatism has traditionally staked its ideological home the Republican Party. Yet, the career politicians who claim to be Republicans are not representing the values they espouse.
The failure of a Republican House, Senate, and President to fully repeal Obamacare is more than just another broken promise by career politicians. It is heresy which foreshadows more ideological differences between conservatives and Republican politicians. At issue is the undeniable difference between what the Republican Party says and what its elected officials do. And, the resulting crisis of integrity threatens to destroy the party which abolished slavery, voted for civil rights, and defeated communism.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
The Republican Platform 2016, adopted by the 2016 Republican National Convention held in Cleveland, clearly stated conservative values. It included the following statements under the section entitled Restoring Patient Control and Preserving Quality in Healthcare.
“Any honest agenda for improving healthcare must start with repeal of the dishonestly named Affordable Care Act of 2010: Obamacare.” (RNC, 2016, p. 36)
Yet, in 2017 after a Republican House and Senate considered their own versions of a health bill, each failed to fully repeal Obamacare. In fact, neither the Republican House nor the Senate bill even hinted to fully repeal Obamacare. Instead, the politicians which conservatives elected to office attempted to find some middle ground; a so-called Obamacare-lite, which offered nothing more than a different kind of national health system controlled by the federal government.
There is no middle ground. The entirety of Obamacare is against the conservative principles stated as follows:
“We agree with the four dissenting judges of the Supreme Court: “In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.” (RNC, 2016, p. 36)
If the entirety of Obamacare is invalid, the entire Act must be repealed.
Furthermore, the Republican Platform of 2016 rightly promises a federalist system with regulating power over health insurance markets returned to states as follows:
“We will return to the states their historic role of regulating local insurance markets, limit federal requirements on both private insurance and Medicaid, and call on state officials to reconsider the costly medical mandates, imposed under their own laws, that price millions of low-income families out of the insurance market.” (RNC, 2016, p. 36)
States are in the best position to address both the regulation of healthcare and market-based reforms. State legislators and insurance commissioners elected by the people are more likely to represent the diverse will of the people. Prior to Obamacare, there were many states such as North Carolina in 2004 that quickly changed regulations to lower premiums. States can once again regulate and reform healthcare. But, not while Obamacare is the law of the land.
The Republican Platform of 2016 made a clear promise that a Republican president will repeal Obamacare with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans.
“[A] Republican president, on the first day in office, will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign its repeal.” (RNC, 2016, p. 36)
Conservatives voted for Republican candidates so that they would repeal Obamacare. Conservatives did not vote for Republican candidates to replace Obamacare with another version of a national health system. This distinction is significant as it goes to the heart of what it means to be a conservative and why a failure to fully repeal Obamacare is a crisis of integrity which threatens to destroy the Republican Party as the ideological home of American conservatism.
What It Means To Be A Conservative
American conservatism, while richly diverse in ideology, holds certain tenets as inviolate. Among these are individual liberty, free markets, and preserving the original intent of the US Constitution. Obamacare violates all three.
The Republican Platform of 2016 clearly defines one of the conservative tenets in the section entitled A Rebirth of Constitutional Government which states the following:
“Every violation of state sovereignty by federal officials is not merely a transgression of one unit of government against another; it is an assault on the liberties of individual Americans…We welcome to our ranks all citizens who are determined to reclaim the rights of the people that have been ignored or usurped by the federal and intrusive state governments.” (RNC, 2016, p. 15)
The health care debate ultimately must reconcile with the US Constitution and comply with it. And, no healthcare bill proposed thus far by either party passes this test. Specifically, the Ninth Amendment declares that “[t]he enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Furthermore, the Tenth Amendment declares that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
These two Amendments together are essential to limiting the powers of the federal government. They reaffirm the ideas of liberty inherent in the Declaration of Independence that individual rights are not derived from governments but from God and natural law. These concepts are what makes America exceptional as the heir and pinnacle of Western civilization.
Preservation of the US Constitution as originally written is a tenet of conservatism. When people call themselves conservatives, it is the original intent of the Constitution that they wish to conserve. An intellectually honest person cannot refer to themselves as a conservative while supporting a law which is unconstitutional.
Yet, federal control of healthcare is not an enumerated power given from the people or the states to the federal government. Obamacare is an unconstitutional law. It violates the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. And, it infects one fifth of the US economy. Any Republican bill which similarly establishes federal control of healthcare is equally unconstitutional regardless of the substance of the bill or intent of its Republican authors.
Exercising any federal authority in healthcare is “an assault on the liberties of individual Americans” as the Republican Platform states.
Conservatives should demand every Republican in the House and Senate vote unanimously to repeal Obamacare as it is unconstitutional. Conservatives should not accept a Republican version of national healthcare as it is equally unconstitutional. And, conservatives should demand of the Republican Party to hold its elected officials accountable.
If the Republican House and Senate cannot fully repeal Obamacare and abolish national healthcare in 2017, what hope is there that they will ever hold true to conservative principles on any issue in any year? Why would there be any hope for a fair and simple tax code? A balanced budget? Reduction of national debt? Defunding planned parenthood? Or religious freedom?
If the Republicans fail to fully repeal Obamacare, they should not be trusted to support conservative principles on any issue. Repealing healthcare should be our rallying flag. All we ask of the Republican Party and its elected officials is that they be true to what they say on paper.
RNC. (2016, July). The 2016 Republican Party Platform. Retrieved from gop.com: https://www.gop.com/the-2016-republican-party-platform/