How have progressives managed to build a behemoth of a federal government over the past 80 years? By doing it over 80 years.

This seems to be a lesson lost on many conservatives.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was the modern administrative state. It took the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society, Obamacare, and a vast array of deals, bills and laws most people have never heard of.

Progressives fought their fights, banked their gains, then came back for more.

But somehow the monstrosity that is the (Un)Affordable Care Act is supposed to be dismantled in one fell swoop.

Get real, comrades.

Was the American Health Care Act to repeal Obamacare everything I wanted? Hardly. It's not everything anybody wanted. And guess what? No matter how it's amended, it won't ever be everything anybody wanted.

That's not how the legislative process works. Here's how it works.

When the country was tottering on the brink of civil war in 1850, Sen. Henry Clay devised a grand compromise that would give the South quite a bit, the North a little and, he hoped, keep everybody happy enough not to start killing each other for another decade.

Clay, one of the great legislators in United States history, couldn't get his bill passed. It had too many pieces in it that too many people were against.

So Sen. Stephen A. Douglas suggested they break it into its constituent pieces and pass each one, separately, with a different coalition supporting each bill.

It worked. Each separate bill was passed, with shifting majorities on every vote.

Did the Compromise of 1850 solve every problem under the sun? Hardly. It solved a few, and created some bigger ones. That's how the legislative process works.

The conservative goal of repealing the 2010 healthcare law and replacing it with market-based reforms is noble. But nobility should not be confused with immediacy.

The imperfect House bill includes provisions conservatives have tried and failed to pass for decades, including Medicaid reforms that would all but end a federal entitlement. That's not small potatoes.

Get a bill through the House. See what the Senate does. Go to conference. Make a start. Bank your gains. Then come back for more.

This isn't rocket science. This is how a bill becomes a law.

It's also how you begin to chip away at the leviathan. One brick at a time. The alternative is doing nothing. That leaves the leviathan in place, to be added to the next time progressives are in charge.

And they will be in charge again, at some point.

All majorities are fleeting. The difference between the two parties is that Democrats take advantage of theirs to do big things, like pass Obamacare. That led to a big defeat in the next election, from which they have yet to recover. But the law is still there, and they'll be back.

If Republicans believe their own rhetoric — a big if, to be sure — they should act on it, and start building their own edifice that the Democrats will have to spend precious time and political capital trying to dismantle next time they're in the driver's seat.

That starts by doing what they've been promising to do for seven years.

John Bicknell (@JohnBick1960) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is executive editor of and the author of two books on 19th-century presidential campaigns.

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