Albert Hunt had a column this past Sunday that made a surprising claim: Republicans are actually very lucky that Obamacare exists or else their internal fighting would be even more prominent. Here’s Hunt:
Republicans are thankful for President Barack Obama’s health-care law; it provides a respite from their bitter schisms.
The government shutdown and the near-default were devastating for the party. If it takes a drubbing, as expected, in the Virginia gubernatorial race this week, there will be fresh recriminations.
This is wrong. The bitter schisms exists because of Obamacare. Imagine what party unity would look like if Obamacare didn’t exist. There wouldn’t have been a disastrous shutdown fight that split the party into two factions, one looking to use it as leverage to stop Obamacare and another wanting to fight another day.
Many commentators have noted that the internal divisions in the Republican Party are mostly ones of tactics, not policy. John Boehner did everything in his power to keep his party unified by listening to the extremists. However, while this satisfied the Tea Party, it infuriated many Senate Republicans and moderates in the House. For Boehner, this was the better option, but the result is an establishment that says it is ready to take on radical candidates in primaries next year. Without Obamacare, none of these divisions take place.
The majority of Hunt’s column focuses on immigration reform and the dangers it pose politically for the Republican Party. This danger is magnified by Obamacare as well as the government shutdown that sent their favorability plummeting to historic lows. Without Obamacare, the party would have a higher approval rating and a bit more room to ignore popular policies such as immigration reform. The defund strategy only puts more pressure on the GOP to do something constructive for the country.
Hunt is correct that HealthCare.gov’s catastrophic start has given the party something to rally behind, but this “respite” is just that. It’s a small break from all the infighting over tactics that Obamacare has caused the GOP. On the contrary, the party would be more unified and in a much better position politically if the Affordable Care Act didn’t exist. Republicans certainly aren’t thankful for it.