Ross Douthat | The Three Burials of ObamaCare

THE first time Obamacare seemed finished, doomed, doornail-dead, the voters of Massachusetts played the would-be executioner. In January 2010, they sent a pickup-driving Republican to the Senate to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, apparently depriving the health care bill of its crucial 60th vote and sending Democrats scrambling for a Plan B.

Except that Plan B turned out to be Plan A, thanks to the maneuverings of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and the surprising stiffness of Democratic spines — and a bill that seemed undone by voter backlash went staggering across the legislative finish line instead.

The second time Obamacare seemed headed for an early grave, it was the conservative justices on the Supreme Court who were was going to see it off, by following through on their oral-argument inclinations and finding the individual mandate unconstitutional.

Except that Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. took the more politically cautious route instead — declining to overturn the mandate even though that’s where his analysis seemed to point, and finding a legal via media that kept the health care law limping toward implementation.

Now we’ve reached Obamacare’s third near-death experience, and if the law actually goes down this time there will be a lot of fingerprints on the murder weapon: Kathleen Sebelius and her hapless crew of Internet engineers; the voters infuriated at being thrown from their existing coverage into the not-really-working exchanges; panicking Congressional Democrats and gleeful Congressional Republicans; the media, long favorably disposed to the project but now scenting second-term blood; and of course the president himself, whose “noble lie” that everyone could keep their coverage has made the backlash that much worse.


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