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A classic populist insurgency: Activist group Tea Party Patriots protest at the Capitol in Washington D.C. 

Wakes are not only for rainy days. The weather outside was glorious in that New England fall way, but the mood inside a room in Yale's Linsly-Chittenden Hall was a touch funereal. We were a bunch of rightwingers there for a conference on the future of conservatism but, to quite a few of those attending, the past seemed altogether more promising. 

The timing was not the best. Just a few days before, the ill-conceived and unpopular effort by congressional Republicans to defund Obamacare, a ploy that made the charge of the Light Brigade look well thought-out, had collapsed in an eminently predictable fiasco. This stoked fears that the 2014 midterm elections were now doomed to end in disaster. Always implausible hopes of retaking the Senate looked delusional and even GOP control of the House of Representatives appeared to be at risk. 

But not long after, Republican hopes began to rise. The end of the shutdown left the Obamacare website, launched a week or two earlier amid general derision, alone in the coconut shy. As I write, healthcare.gov is a gift that is still giving. Obama's approval ratings have sunk below 40 per cent. 

But the site's issues are being ironed out, and with the help of  supportive media, will be reclassified as teething problems to be rapidly forgotten. Nevertheless, there is a decent chance that lingering recollections of the cack-handed roll-out will poison the way in which many voters will still be viewing Obama's signature legislation when the mid-term elections come round next November. That might give the GOP a helping hand then, but the idea that this will also be enough to propel a Republican into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the 2016 elections is a stretch.

That said, Obamacare — never a particularly popular plan — may give Republicans something they can exploit in their campaign to retake the White House. The Obama administration shies away from the word, but the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is redistributionist, not only in the narrow sense (higher taxes on the wealthy), but in its broader operation: it directly or indirectly transfers healthcare resources away from a majority of Americans and reallocates them to the much smaller number previously shut out of the system. Crudely understood, there will be more losers than winners. 

Simply undertaking to repeal Obamacare will not be enough to do the trick. The system being transformed by the ACA may have been better than usually understood in the UK, but it was nonetheless restrictive, bureaucratic and expensive and, thanks to the way it was often linked to employment, alarmingly tenuous to the millions of Americans who worry how secure their jobs really are. If Obamacare is to go, the GOP will have to explain what it will put in its place. Journalists and think-tank denizens on the Right have been offering up their suggestions for a while, but as two of the most recent to do so, Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at National Review, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Yuwal Levin, the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, observed in a November article in the Wall Street Journal, congressional Republicans have "with a few honourable exceptions" failed to join in.

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BMP
December 28th, 2013
12:12 AM
The Republican Party is a big tent and the party that ended slavery and Democrat sponsored segregation in the south. To suggest that the Republicans can not appeal to minorities is absurd and Christie will show us how.

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