Part of the problem with political punditry is that its rules of politesse are a bizarre potpourri with no internal consistency or balance. There are all kinds of bad behaviors that are tolerated, but one of the great prohibitions is against accusing someone else of bad faith. This is a problem; people argue in bad faith all the time. Wishing doesn't make it not so. And the prohibition against calling them out leaves us disarmed against the least honest sophistry that we encounter.
I can't think of a better example of this than the health care debate. It's profoundly strange to me that I am not supposed to point out the fact that those who have argued fiercely against health care reform don't, in fact, want uninsured and underinsured Americans to get access to health care. Indeed, it's seen as the height of lefty vulgarity to say that those working tirelessly to undermine every effort to cover the uninsured don't want the uninsured to get covered. The stance that one can simultaneously oppose all real reforms but bear no moral culpability for the consequences of the lack of reform seems flatly wrong to me, but people insist on that idea quite doggedly.
Personally, I think denying people adequate health care coverage because of their economic condition or employment status is a practical and ethical failure equal to Jim Crow or similar regimes of racial inequality. Now you can know me by my extremism. And so the meticulously curated pose of believing in a theoretical regime of universal health care while opposing all real reform seems to me to be dishonest and worse.
But okay. Have it your way. Let's say that, for the time being, I'll accept that stance as genuine. I have a serious, non-rhetorical question: when does that change? When does intellectual seriousness compel people to present a real, actionable, and plausible plan that covers the uninsured, or else abandon the pretense that they want them covered? We have been debating health care reform that is like Obamacare since well before the '08 election. We've been debating the actual legislation for years now. So: when does it become incumbent on those opposed to PPACA to present a viable alternative or else abandon the pretense that they want coverage for the uninsured at all? Is there a specific date when I should expect a viable, realistic plan to emerge from the Republican leadership, one that actually could be passed as the "replace" part of repeal and replace? Is the time horizon literally endless? Ross Douthat, to pick just one, has written for ages about endorsing a conservative alternative to Obamacare. How long is he willing to wait? When can we fairly call him on it if such an alternative isn't forthcoming?
Me, personally, well. I think what is taken for libertarian or conservative economic policy is flatly incompatible with the goal of covering all people. The "free market," as conventionally defined, can't provide adequate, affordable coverage to the sick or the old or the infirm. I'm happy to be proven wrong, though. So ante up. Show me your version. I don't love Obamacare. I think it's a weak, insufficient compromise. But I had to set aside my dissatisfaction in order to support a qualified improvement. I think others can do the same.