Weekly Standard Online

'Repair' Means Retreat

Republicans rode their near-unanimous support for repealing Obamacare to big wins in the elections of 2010, 2014, and 2016. Now, having won control of the House, Senate, and White House largely on the strength of that clear and courageous commitment, some Republican officeholders are thinking that maybe it's time for them to stop saying they're for repeal. Egged on by Frank Luntz and his focus groups, some have now switched to "repair."

Of course, "repairing" Obamacare isn't what Republicans ran on. Indeed, it has a totally different meaning. To speak of "repairing" Obamacare is to speak of fixing it—which conveys to voters that it can be fixed. To repeal it means to get rid of it—which implies it cannot be fixed. Republicans need to decide which notion they believe in.

Shortly after the Democrats passed Obamacare without a single Republican vote in either the House or the Senate, Yuval Levin wrote the following—in a piece entitled "REPEAL"— and today's Republican officeholders should heed his words:

"[Obamacare] is not even a liberal approach to escalating costs but a ticking time bomb: a scheme that will build up pressure in our private insurance system while offering no escape. Rather than reform a system that everyone agrees is unsustainable, it will subsidize that system and compel participation in it—requiring all Americans to pay ever-growing premiums to insurance companies while doing essentially nothing about the underlying causes of those rising costs….

"It is designed to push people into a system that will not exist—a health care bridge to nowhere….

"In other words, Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster—for our health care system, for our fiscal future, and for any notion of limited government….

"[Obamacare] thoroughly fails to deal with efficiency and cost, and stands in the way of any meaningful effort to do so. It is built on a fundamental conceptual error, suffers from a profound incoherence of design, and [makes] a bad situation far worse. It cannot be improved by tinkering. It must be removed….

"We must repeal it."

Or as Speaker Paul Ryan, who first made his name opposing Obamacare in 2009 and 2010, recently put it, "To repair the American health-care system, you have to repeal and replace this law, and that's what we're doing."

Let's hope so.