Paul Waldman thinks the Republicans’ biggest challenge in the fight against Obamacare is that “conservatives just don’t care”:
That isn’t to say there are no conservatives who care about health care, because there are a few (like the folks at the Heritage Foundation who came up with the individual mandate!). But they are few and far between on the right. Your typical Republican, on the other hand, cares deeply about issues like taxes and defense policy, and works hard to understand them and come up with ideas for where they should go in the future. But had President Obama not passed health-care reform, they would have been perfectly happy to let the status quo continue indefinitely.
I don’t blame Ponnuru and others for trying to get conservatives to embrace some kind of healthcare plan. I think they’re kind of crazy to think their proposed plan would (a) work, (b) be politically attractive, or (c) be popular, but maybe that’s just my liberal bias talking. What’s not my liberal bias talking, however, is the plain fact that conservatives don’t care about expanding access to healthcare. As Waldman says, the evidence on this score is overwhelming. They opposed Medicare. They opposed CHIP. They’ve opposed every expansion of Medicaid ever. Only brutal strongarm tactics got them to support their own president’s prescription drug plan, despite the sure knowledge that killing it would likely lose them the White House the following year. And of course, they’ve opposed every Democratic attempt to pass universal healthcare legislation in the last century.
During that same period, Republicans have never shown any interest in a plan of their own. They periodically put on a show whenever Democrats propose something that looks like it might have legs, but it’s purely defensive. When the threat goes away, so does the show. This has happened like clockwork for decades.