Texas Goes Big on Hating Obamacare

Misplaced bragging rights in a primary fight.
Photographer: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

The politics of Obamacare hatred keep getting goofier.

I came across a television spot for Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst last night (Alas, I can't find an online copy anywhere) bashing the Affordable Care Act, which makes perfect sense because he's in a hotly contested renomination contest in which he's one of four Republicans trying to convince primary voters he's the True Conservative.

The ad praised Dewhurst for fighting Medicaid expansion. So far, so good; in a Republican primary, it makes perfect sense that Medicaid (not to mention Obamacare) is unpopular. And it bashed the rollout, talking about how the government couldn't even get a website to work.

My favorite part, though? Dewhurst bragging that he "Kept Texas out of Obamacare exchange."

My favorite part isn't so much that Dewhurst thinks the True Conservative position is to brag about forcing Texans to use the federal-run exchange instead of having a Texas-run system, or that he thinks that using the federal exchange counts as keeping "Texas out of Obamacare exchange."

My favorite part is that he's right. None of the candidates running against him, each desperate to find issues on which to brand him an orthodoxy-deviating Republican in Name Only, would dream of attacking him for ... using the federal exchange instead of building a Texas one. Nor will any of them on pragmatic, or even Texas-chauvinist, grounds, attack him for trusting President Barack Obama's federal exchange instead of using a Texas-built one.

Yes, I know; state-run exchanges still must comply with federal ACA requirements (though I strongly suspect that Republican states could have negotiated flexibility, just as Republican Medicaid expanders have).

Anyway, after seeing that ad last night, I woke up to a terrific Reid Wilson article about those Republican Medicaid expanders and their efforts to find political cover -- which includes making sure that the expansion isn't called "Medicaid." Which brings up, again, the possibility that the eventual Republican "replace" plan will just be to rename the whole thing the Ronald Reagan Free Enterprise Health Plan, while keeping the exchanges and everything else intact.

Look, I am definitely not saying that Republicans should support the ACA. All I'm saying is there's a difference between sensible opposition to specific policies and a war on Obamacare, which seems to drive some Republicans to truly baffling, seemingly irrational positions. Such as Dewhurst bragging about forcing Texans into a malfunctioning federal website.

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    (Jonathan Bernstein covers U.S. politics for Bloomberg View. He is co-editor of "The Making of the Presidential Candidates 2012." Follow him onTwitter at @JBPlainblog.)

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