By BRIAN HOWEY
NASHVILLE —There's a well-worn saying in politics that “elections have consequences.”
In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president. In 2010, eight months after the Affordable Care Act was passed into law and signed by President Obama, Republicans took back the House. They had a shot at winning a Senate majority, except that Tea Party Republicans in Delaware, Nevada and Colorado nominated kooky candidates who lost races in which the GOP had been overwhelming favorites.
The “rubber match” occurred in 2012. Not only did President Obama win reelection despite a tepid economy, but the Democratic Senate majority actually increased to 55-45 after another wave of Tea Party Republicans — including Indiana's Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin in Missouri and another safe Republican Senate seat in Maine — went into the Democratic column. U.S. Sens. Dick Lugar and Olympia Snowe were shoved aside or forced out.
If Republicans had nominated candidates with the right “temperament,” instead of sidelining incumbents and candiates who weren't ideologically pure enough, the U.S. Senate could have been 51-49 right now and Obamacare might truly be on the ropes.
What we're seeing in Indiana and nationally is a Republican Party that doesn't recognize it lost the crucial rubber match.
After the 2011 redistricting, hundreds of U.S. House seats were drawn that created safe redoubts for Republican congressmen and women. These districts are whiter than America, more conservative than America and with this creation, these Members have little fear of losing a November election.
What they do sweat is being “primaried.” U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon has been targeted by the Club For Growth (just as Sen. Lugar was two years ago), and there are potential primary challenges facing freshmen U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski and Susan Brooks because Tea Party factions don't deem them conservative enough.
Thus, Indiana has gone from sending “statesmen” to Washington and out into the world, to creating “primary candidates” who are using their offices to fend off party fratricide in May.
The conservative Republicans in the U.S. House are seeking to defund Obamacare and some have threatened to shut the government down to do so.
U.S. Sen. Dan Coats — as ardent an opponent of Obamacare as anyone — has been saying since last June that President Obama will never allow his signature achievement to be overridden. Nor defunding or repeal have any chance of passing the Senate. To believe otherwise means you live in an alternative universe with rockinghorse people and marshmallow pies.
As I've stated many times before, heading into 2010, I espoused support for health insurance reform, as the costs were escalating and people like myself — on a so-called “death spiral” with a pre-existing condition — couldn't get coverage or once attained, was shockingly expensive. Watching the creation of the ACA was like watching Dr. Frankenstein stitching together his creature. It is hard to understand if you're not an economist, and even that group is split on whether Obamacare will work.
But Congressional Republicans are using their offices like political candidates do during campaigns. They have become fonts of propaganda, declaring that Obamacare has “failed” and is a “trainwreck.” This isn't an effort to help their constituents understand the new law. There has been little effort to “tweak” or even revise troubling segments of the law. Instead, they play to that 10 or 15 percent of their constituents who pose a threat in a May primary.
And this extends to other offices. In July, the Indiana Department of Insurance told us that health premiums were going to rise by 72 percent and the average cost would be $570 a month. Gov. Mike Pence used this information in his national Republican radio address in August.
But this past week, U.S. Health and Human Services told us the opposite, that premiums were actually decreasing. An Indianapolis Business Journal story on Sept. 9 revealed that Anthem policyholders would actually see a small decrease.
Who is correct? And who has credibility now? I honestly don't know.
I remember watching with similar morbid fascination President George W. Bush pushing through the Medicare Part D legislation — the largest entitlement expansion since the Great Society — prior to his 2004 reelection. Upon implementation, Speaker John Boehner termed it “horrendous” and costs went through the roof. And then things settled down and Part D is largely seen as a policy success.
Not only has Obamacare gone under dramatic changes when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could choose whether to opt in on Medicaid expansion, but the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services went without a director during much of the implementation period, stonewalled in the Senate. How smart was that?
There has been an unprecedented propaganda push by the party which lost the presidency and the U.S. Senate in 2012.
Obamacare is not going to be defunded. In January, its implementation will be well underway.
And Hoosier consumers are going to need their governor, their state Department of Insurance, and their Members of Congress to help them navigate the confusing new laws, which most don't understand.
They don't need propaganda by frightened primary candidates. They need statesmen and women who will help them thrive in this new world, and as they see things that don't function, work with the other party to change them.
Brian Howey publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Twitter @hwypol.