In politics, it's easy to say what you're against.
For the last eight years, Republicans were against Barack Obama and all that he tried to accomplish. This animosity was based partly on his political affiliation but even more so on the color of his skin. It would be bad for Republicans if a Democrat was able to save the country from the depths of despair; it would be even worse if that Democrat just so happened to be a person of color. Should Barack Obama succeed, it would a clear message to the American electorate that no only was the Democratic Party the party of sound policy but also that it was the party of sound opportunity for all is members. This hope combined with an unbridled optimism that government could make a positive difference in people's minds was a dangerous combination for Republicans and one that could set the party back for a generation or more. Therefore, they had to do everything in their power to ensure that didn't happen.
And so, they began an eight-year odyssey where their governing strategy would be to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Obama-backed initiatives were never voted on. Common presidential practices were made to be seen as controversial. Previously supported legislative ideas were shot down. Republicans went so far as to deny the president his constitutional right to have his Supreme Court nominee receive a hearing. No matter what the issue, Republicans did everything in their power to oppose the man in the Oval Office. Even when President Obama did succeed, Republicans were quick to criticize his accomplishments as being unsustainable, unnecessary, or even unpatriotic. The political party that had long held the mantra of being pro-America was now openly rooting for the country to fail in order to spite the man in the Oval Office.
The good news for Republicans is that there were plenty of ways to hide the true reasons for their opposition from their base. The ACA was portrayed as a government takeover of health care. The Paris Climate Agreement was portrayed as a job-killing initiative. The Iran Deal was portrayed as a terrorist-friendly arrangement. Any executive order of President Obama was portrayed as executive overreach. No matter what the issue was, Republicans had a well-rehearsed reason for opposing the president. Even the economic recovery wasn't immune from criticism as Republicans claimed that President Obama's policies weren't helping the country recover quickly enough. This, of course, was due in large part to a Republican intransigence with any and all congressional legislation proposed by Democrats, a detail that they conveniently forgot to mention to their constituents. When all was said and done, Republican hypocrisy knew no bounds as they attempted to absolve themselves from any and all problems that our country faced over the past eight years.
But then a funny thing happened.
After eight years of rooting for failure, Republicans were all of a sudden in a position to succeed. With the election of Donald Trump, Republicans now had control of the House, Senate, and White House and thus could enact their dream agenda. After eight years of rejecting whatever Barack Obama happened to propose, Republicans now had a blank check to do as they pleased. Seeing as they had made the repeal of the ACA a top talking point and campaign issue over the last seven years, that issue became the top issue for Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and Paul Ryan. After 7 years of saying they would repeal the ACA and 17 days of having an actual plan to do it, Republicans now had an opportunity to deal a massive blow not only to the Democratic Party but also to President Barack Obama's legacy. All they had to do was simply unite behind the American Health Care Act.
And they choked.
They choked so badly, the bill never even made it to the floor of the House for a vote. The bill was too cruel for moderates and not cruel enough for the Freedom Caucus. Republicans in competitive districts had to answer questions from vulnerable constituents at town halls. They had to answer why they wanted to strip away health care from women, veterans, seniors, and those with preexisting conditions. Despite badmouthing the law for 7 years, Republicans were finding that people actually liked the law, contrary to what they believed. With Donald Trump trying unsuccessfully to strike a deal and Paul Ryan trying unsuccessfully to unite the various factions within the Republican Party, the bill was ultimately doomed by the fact that there was no consensus as to what true repeal of the Affordable Care Act would actually look like. Even after seven years, Republicans had no clue what to do when their moment in the sun finally arrived.
Because after eight years, Republicans know what they're against but they don't know what they stand for. It's easy to constantly criticize the decisions of the party in power; it's a lot harder to actually govern. For eight years, Republicans were united by their hatred for President Barack Obama. What he was for, they were against no matter what. It didn't matter if it was the pro-business wing, the religious right, or the Freedom Caucus. All factions of the Republican Party found common ground over their desire to see the president fail. But now that they are the party in power, this uneasy Republican alliance is now being exposed for all the country to see. Health care reform was supposed to be the gimme, the easy issue that would give way to more challenging issues that would arise later on. But Republicans aren't even united on that front and with an incompetent administration at the helm, it now appears that the entire Republican agenda could very well be derailed before it even begins.
And Republicans are about to realize it's a lot harder to govern than Monday morning quarterback.
In politics, it's easy to say what you're against.