Obamacare is coming. Obamacare is coming. As you read this, the main parts of the law are being implemented. (I thought I should be appropriately alarming and American Revolutionary to those who somehow think this is equivalent to invasion.)

Congressional Republicans, through all their shutdown efforts and tantrums, like the Grinch (or Grinches they are) with Christmas — can’t stop it from coming. Nor have they offered any alternative. Essentially, they want to hurt or inconvenience one set of Americans through a government shutdown to hurt another set needing health care.

I also find it ironic the “family values” party is actually opposing extending health care to the poor, especially children (and ones with preexisting conditions) in the name of “freedom” to not pay a tax to help cover the costs. A cost, by the way, all of us with insurance pay when people without it need extreme care. Do they want instead to say that emergency rooms should be free to turn away people without insurance? That would make those people who freely choose to not have coverage take responsibility for their negligence. Except: a lot of them can’t get or afford insurance … see their problem?

It’s not “socialism” or even a “government takeover.” It keeps private insurance intact, and even promotes competition through exchanges, though granted government mandates some aspects and funds others. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is a socialist, noted “it’s a good Republican program.” It’s modeled after “Romneycare” in Massachusetts, which has generally worked well, has elements advocated by the conservative Heritage Foundation, now against it.

Yes, it has glitches and problems, believe me. It’s also complex, though the basic idea is to create larger pools of people to share costs and risks, like all insurance does. (If you want simple and reasonably effective, then we should have done what Sen. Sanders and others like myself would prefer, and lower the Medicare age to 18 and increase taxes progressively on those who can afford it to pay for it.) Please visit our state insurance commissioner’s excellent website to learn more and even sign up for a plan.

The more interesting question is: why are the Republicans risking economic and political catastrophe over this? Do they really passionately believe the Constitution forbids it? I doubt it, especially since “their” Supreme Court ruled the law constitutional.

Perhaps they fear that the law will actually work, people will like it, and thus Obama and the Democrats will, like FDR with Social Security and LBJ with Medicare, again be identified with helping millions while they said no. Yet instead of spending massive hours fruitlessly trying to stop it, they could have worked on fixing its problems, thus helping take credit and making the issue “bipartisan” and reducing Democrats’ advantage on the issue. That would take higher-order thinking.

But I think the more obvious explanation is the “I must follow the masses, for I am their leader” one. Thanks to rhetorical spitfire for political gain, they’re in a box. As under Clinton, Republicans assumed that by greatly simplifying and exaggerating it as a disaster, they would be rewarded, only after it passed rather than before. And they did win back the House. The problem now is they have created their own monsters, an extreme wing of their party that prefers disaster to compromise and will eat their own young, namely them.

This is the price of demagoguery. Once you play Chicken Little and claim the sky will fall, it’s hard to go back and say, “Sorry, it really isn’t that bad and may actually help you.”

Here’s another thought experiment: is it somehow related to demonization of Obama specifically? Would they have been this strident if, for example, Jimmy Carter, a good ol’ Southern Baptist boy, had done this? (Actually, he did, or at least his plan had many of the same ideas.)

Obamacare is not a panacea, nor is it the end of the republic. It costs money, undoubtedly needs to be improved, and won’t solve everything — but it will help make all of us healthier.

This column is a weekly feature from one of three Central Washington University professors who are endeavoring to represent both ends of the political spectrum.


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