Ron Fournier, like many of us, is frustrated with the state of American politics. And like a moth driven to the flame, Ron Fournier knows that what's wrong is a lack of bipartisanship.
How else to explain this flaming hot take on Obamacare, in which he explains that the big problem with Obama's approach was failing to take a page from the Massachusetts universal health care program that is in fact the model for Obamacare:
On health care, we needed a market-driven plan that decreases the percentage of uninsured Americans without convoluting the U.S. health care system. Just such a plan sprang out of conservative think tanks and was tested by a GOP governor in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.
Instead of a bipartisan agreement to bring that plan to scale, we got more partisan warfare. The GOP resisted, Obama surrendered his mantle of bipartisanship, and Democrats muscled through a one-sided law that has never been popular with a majority of the public.
It is true that we did not get a bipartisan agreement. It is true that the GOP resisted. It is true that the law is unpopular. But Obama didn't surrender his mantle of bipartisanship. The GOP took it away from him. They took it away from his as part of a deliberate strategy. They knew, as Fournier says right in this very column, that a big bipartisan health reform would be more popular than a big partisan health reform. So since Republicans didn't want Obama to be popular, they had every incentive to refuse to reach a bipartisan agreement. And thus no agreement was reached.
But regardless of the process used to get there, Obama and congressional Democrats delivered exactly the kind of reform Fournier says America needed. Shouldn't they be congratulated? After all, in substance, you still have a program that is very much on the Massachusetts model. That's the whole reason Jon Gruber came to be a prominent proponent and exponent of the federal law.
But politically speaking, it's a one-sided law that's never been popular. And that's not a coincidence. It's also not something Obama bungled. It's a consequence of mismatched incentives in Washington, DC. The president would like to be associated with bipartisan initiatives. The opposition party would like the president to not be associated with bipartisan initiatives. And the opposition party has it in their power to make sure that the president is not associated with bipartisan initiatives.
If you don't understand that, you'll never understand today's politics. Worse, you'll be consistently making bipartisanship less likely. It's precisely because of columns like this one that it made narrow political sense for the GOP to abjure compromise. Why bargain if any failure to reach agreement will be blamed on the president?