How Conservatives Can Convert the Healthcare Failure into a Win for Trump and the American People

The crisis created by the demise of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) philosophically, politically and procedurally presents an opportunity for conservatives.

Will they seize it?

In the wake of the collapse of the legislation, the Trump administration has pinned some of the blame on conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC), and said that it will work with moderate Republicans and Democrats to advance its agenda going forward.

The president recently took to Twitter, implicitly threatening primary challenges against HFC members in 2018:

Thus, he invoked his strongest means of leverage.

Bear in mind, however, that in spite of the weight of such words, the administration prioritizes pragmatism over ideology, and views debates as negotiations, which are necessarily fluid and transactional.

Parties can be up one day and down the next depending on the state of play.

The president is also concerned with being perceived as a winner.

The AHCA, drafted and backed by many who were staunch opponents of the president during the 2016 election, was a political loser, and the loss undermined the president and his agenda.

It united in opposition not only conservatives, but over a dozen moderates including the House Appropriations chair. The bill received a mere 17 percent approval among the American people.

If conservatives are to convert this loss into a temporary setback on the road to victory, they must meet the president where he stands, and appeal to his core motivations.

Conservatives will not win the fight on healthcare or any other issue by arguing that we are putting forth the most conservative piece of legislation.

What we must argue is that we are putting forth the legislation that will result in the best outcome for the American people – superior healthcare at a lower cost – the political benefit of which will redound to the president.

Foisting on the American people a bill that would have retained the core components of Obamacare while removing the funding elements that kept it (barely) solvent, thus precipitating its death spiral, would not have been in the interest of the president, the Republican Party, or the public.

That Republicans put forth such a universally unpopular piece of legislation as its first major legislative act under President Trump represented just another example of the establishment he ran against undermining him.

Conversely, the House Freedom Caucus members who stood with the president throughout the election saved him from a bill that would have betrayed his staunchest supporters, the forgotten men and women who elected him to take on the establishment on their behalf.