Why Aren’t Conservatives Interested in Healthcare?

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Here’s something new. CPAC, the right wing’s big annual gabfest, has come in for a lot of criticism recently for being too hidebound and insular to give Chris Christie a speaking slot at their conference in March. Today, though, Philip Klein takes them on for the opposite sin: giving up on conservatism by not holding an Obamacare panel this year. However, he admits this is less a CPAC problem than simply a problem with conservatism itself:

Conservative activists often disregard health care as a liberal issue […] and only become engaged when liberals attempt to advance big government solutions.

In 1993 and 1994, for instance, when the Clintons were pushing their national health care plan, the conservative movement rose up to successfully defeat it. But then, instead of taking advantage of the intervening 15 years to advance market-based solutions to health care, conservative activists largely ignored the issue.

….A few scholars such as Sally Pipes, John Goodman, Grace-Marie Turner, David Hogberg and Greg Scandlen were consistently writing about how to foster the creation of a consumer-based medical system. But health care just didn’t generate any passion at the grassroots level until Obama began his health care push….In hindsight, the interest in health care policy on the Right is looking more like a fad built around opposition to Obamacare.

There’s a pretty obvious conclusion to be drawn here: conservatives actually don’t care much about healthcare. Just like they don’t care much about income inequality or particulate poisoning. These just aren’t hot button issues on the right, and the truth is that the grass roots isn’t much interested in egghead ideas about consumer-directed healthcare.

In other words, the recent blooming of interest in healthcare policy really was just a fad built around opposition to Obamacare. Nobody in the conservative movement ever had the slightest intention of following through on the “replace” part of “repeal and replace.”

So Klein is right about that. But he doesn’t take the next step: asking why conservatives have no real interest in healthcare policy. If there really are some conservative scholars working in this area, why haven’t their proposals sparked any interest among the rank-and-file? From my liberal perspective, the answer seems obvious, but I’d be curious to hear what Klein thinks. He’s got the symptom right, but what about a diagnosis?

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