When the federal government reopened, President Obama and his party claimed a great victory. But every day since has validated Republicans’ unanimous opposition to Obamacare.

Its rollout disaster goes way beyond a dysfunctional website. The fact that millions are now losing their health care plans isn’t an accident; that was the intention.

Even the law’s proponents are looking for an escape hatch as 10 Senate Democrats are calling for an extension of the enrollment period. Twenty-two House Democrats have voted in favor of delaying the individual mandate.

Far from being over, the fight over Obamacare has just begun. The Left wants us to think the debate is finished — it’s the law of the land! — but the battle has now shifted to the public square, where the fate of Obamacare is anything but settled.

A law without popular support lacks public legitimacy, and, in our constitutional system, it will fail. But to win, we’ve got to up our game. And we can’t confuse tactics with principles.

The Tea Party movement sprang from a concern that government was trying to do too much. Our Constitution defines the ends of government, and we should follow those principles as we work to repeal Obamacare, rebuild limited government and revive the land of opportunity.

Today, conservatives control only one-half of one branch of the federal government. Obamacare will remain law as long as the Left controls Washington.

But as James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, there’s a “republican remedy” to our problem — elections.

The way to repeal and replace Obamacare is to elect a legislative majority in 2014, and then a president in 2016, committed to that objective. And the way to do that isn’t to sit back and wait. It’s to be strategic.

We must seize opportunities when we can. To that end, I’m working to get a down payment on the debt. I believe Democrats and Republicans can come together to cut spending in a smarter way.

Where we can find common ground, let’s take a step forward. And where the divide is too great, we must form a national consensus — both against Obamacare and in favor of a bold reform agenda.

We've done this many times before going back all the way to the Founders. In 1796, Thomas Jefferson lost the presidency to John Adams.

In 1798, Adams’ allies, the Federalists, increased their majority in Congress. And Jefferson’s allies, the Democratic-Republicans, were horrified.

The Federalists suppressed free speech, and some Democratic-Republicans worried the country was lost.

Jefferson never despaired. Instead, he redoubled his efforts. In 1798, he told a friend, “If the game runs sometimes against us ... we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost.”

Two years later, the Democratic-Republicans won the presidency and Congress in a landslide — and they ended the restraints on free speech.

Despite progressives’ claims, history isn’t one great march forward or one long, slow decline. As long as the people have a say in how they govern themselves, things can (and do) change direction.

Obamacare is a trainwreck — there’s a growing consensus about that. Now the question is: How can we stop it?

Not by technical fixes or extraconstitutional measures. The answer is by working together to build our coalition, win a popular mandate, and change the law.

Republicans may disagree about the tactics. But we must not lose sight of the target. For millions of Americans, Obamacare means premium hikes and cancellation notices. Families are hurting, and businesses are being destroyed.

But there are no shortcuts to full repeal. So we must go after unpopular provisions, highlight their flaws, and lay the groundwork for the law’s replacement.

We can ask Obama why he refuses to give families the same relief he gave big businesses. We can remind the president he broke his promise that if you liked your health care plan, you could keep it. And we can show the country this law just doesn’t work.

At the same time, we've got to argue for real, patient-centered reforms. If Americans are given an honest choice, they'll make the right one. They'll give us a mandate to replace this costly and unjust mistake.

The 2014 congressional elections will be about many things: jobs, spending, energy. But our priority must be to end Obamacare — and to put a real alternative in its place.

The work of constitutional politics is neither quick nor easy. But it’s still the best solution — and the only one worthy of a self-governing people.

Rep. Paul Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee and represents Wisconsin's First Congressional District.