This month’s election cemented ObamaCare’s place in American society. Unless it didn’t. The latest National Review offers the following observation about the future of the 2010 federal health care reform law:
The election results mean that Obamacare will not be repealed in the next four years. Conservatives should not conclude that it will therefore be a permanent feature of American life. State governments should refuse to establish the exchanges the law envisions: Thanks to a flaw in the law’s design, the federal government can establish exchanges itself but cannot legally put its taxes and subsidies into effect without the state’s cooperation. (States should also join Oklahoma in its fight to keep the IRS from flouting the law.) Even if the law goes into full effect, its many perversities could require congressional attention. If that happens, Republicans will have major leverage — at least if they offer serious alternative proposals to make insurance affordable, as they should long ago have done.
John Hood already has noted the key role the GOP will play in dealing with the details of ObamaCare.
Despite their fecklessness elsewhere, Republicans remain the majority party in America’s state governments. Of the 50 governors, 30 are Republican. Of the 98 partisan legislative chambers (Nebraska’s legislature is unicameral and nonpartisan), Republicans control 57 and the Democrats control 40, with control of the New York senate still in play.
What these statistics don’t fully convey, however, is that the 2012 cycle further accentuated earlier trends. In several blue states, already-Democratic legislatures grew more Democratic. In several red states, including North Carolina, already-Republican legislatures grew more Republican. The 2012 results were partly the result of partisan redistricting in these states, true enough, but that doesn’t explain earlier waves of partisan polarization.
Essentially, there are fewer divided governments and tied or near-tied chambers than there used to be. As Karl Kurz observed on the National Conference of State Legislators blog last week, Republicans now control the governor’s office and both legislative houses in 23 states, up from the previous 18. Democrats have unified governments in 19 states, up from the previous 11. Only a dozen states now have divided governments. That’s the lowest number since the early 1950s.
If you mix all these trends together, you get an interesting concoction, though I would hesitate to call it a smoothie. It may get rough over the next couple of years. Democratic politicians and officials will make most of the nation’s decisions about war, peace, and foreign policy. Republicans and Democrats in Washington will share authority over fiscal issues, a situation that didn’t exactly yield great results during the 2011-12 period. Perhaps the replay will be different.
And when it comes to such domestic issues as education, transportation, social policy, and the state-level implementation of Obamacare, it will be mostly Republican politicians and officials who make the key decisions. Such is the will of the voters, as of November 2012.