Obama Boehner Dems

Hostage negotiations during debt standoff, 2011 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

If you want to succeed, don’t make your success dependent on your enemies helping you. It would seem this piece of advice would be rather self-evident, but even now it appears to be a basic piece of wisdom neither Congressional Democrats nor President Obama has been able to grasp.

The incredible mess that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has turned into is a perfect example of how idiotic it is to make your success contingent on your enemies playing nice. President Obama and Democrats could have easily assured they had complete control over their signature program to ensure it would be implemented smoothy. They could have gone with a national exchange, created a new federal insurance program for the poor and made sure it started before the 2012 election. Instead they insisted on going with state-based exchanges, trusting GOP governors to expand the state-federal partnership Medicaid program that they were anxious to cut, and starting key elements of the ACA after the election.

What this means is that Obama put the critical responsibility for making Obamacare a success in the hands of Republican governors and state legislatures who hate Obama, while risking other elements to the possibility of a Republican President. Not at all surprisingly, Republicans don’t want to make Obama or his signature programs they oppose look good. The result so far has been what was an entirely predictable disaster.

One would think Democrats would at least learn from this painfully obvious lesson, but they clearly have not since they still refuse to eliminate the filibuster. This means the only way they can achieve success in the Senate is to be completely dependent on their enemies helping them. Not surprisingly the Republicans have every reason to not help Obama, and so they haven’t. Instead they use filibusters to prevent him from accomplishing his goals and then blame him for failure.

It may seem the Democrats are incapable of learning this basic lesson, even though the Republicans have. When it comes to repealing the ACA, the GOP has made it clear they won’t let success be dependent on Senate Democrats helping them. They have promised to use reconciliation to bypass the filibuster.