With the Social Security Act of 1935 and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964-65, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson gave us precedents as to how to behave when trying to pass historic and world-changing measures.
First of all, you don't do it quickly, but slowly and carefully. Second, you don't move before you know you appeal to a broad base of people. Third, you have to make it bipartisan, because nothing that isn't has moral authority. There is no type of reform that does not cause disruption, and bipartisanship is protection of sorts from the accusations of callousness that will surely ensue.
Hillarycare in 1993-94, Obamacare in 2009-2010 and Republicare now broke and are breaking all three of these guidelines. And they have given rise to the need for a fourth: They were all done for political, not policy, reasons, not to solve a crisis but to scratch an ideological itch on the part of their bases and make their own leaders look good.
There was no need or demand for a healthcare bill in 1993 or 2009, and there isn't at present. But the Democrats had two bright young wunderkinds who wanted to vault themselves into FDR country. They thought a really big bill would probably do it, and it would placate their base, which should not be confused with the voice of the people. This time, Republicans have been in a rage since 2010 over how Obamacare passed more than for what was in it. They have been longing to push repeal down the throats of the Democrats in the same manner and spirit in which the bill had been pushed down their own.
Vanity, spite and revenge can be understood, but they are really bad reasons to fiddle around with the fortunes and lives of millions of people, especially when you have no idea what you're doing at all. Revenge can be sweet, but also short-sighted. And it's hardly revenge if you replace one badly planned and ruinous bill with another, that may bring upon you the same kind of ruin that has been your enemies' fate.
Let us recall where the Democrats stood when they began pushing healthcare in 2009. They had total control of the national government, a filibuster-proof Senate majority, and thirty state houses. In 2010, they lost the House in a landslide, and their Senate supermajority vanished. In 2014, the first election after the bill went into effect, the Senate went, too. In 2016, the first national election since the bill was enacted, they lost the White House too. Their bench was depleted at all of its levels, and their lawmaking power disappeared in all but a few states.
In 2010, Democrats thought the heavy lifting was in passing the bill, and that after that people would love it, or at least become used to it. They never did. The Republicans now believe the same thing, though their plan is less popular now than the Democrats' ever was. And that was before they received the equivalent of the 380,000 negative ads that they had flung at the Democrats in 2010.
Republicans should retreat for the moment under cover of fog, like the armies at Dunkirk, accepting that ‘now' may arrive just a little bit later. In the meantime, they have to read up about Johnson and Roosevelt, to learn how these things should be done.
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."