Virginia’s Richmond Times-Dispatch recently covered a GOP town hall highlighting the candidacies of two contestants for a delegate seat. The article posed the question: Why would someone from a strongly conservative district vote to expand Medicaid? The incumbent had voted in favor of expansion.
Oddly, there was no discussion in the article expressing criticism of Virginia’s expansion of the Affordable Care Act statute (Obamacare). An online search of the topic revealed a March 1, 2018, press release from Americans for Prosperity (AFP)—the Koch-funded advocacy organization—which offered a screed to members of the General Assembly with the headline, Nothing Conservative About Expanding Medicaid. Again, oddly, the document contained no policy analysis regarding reasons not to expand.
Another online search result reported that 18 GOP-controlled states had decided to join the expansion opportunity, a sign that GOP/conservative opposition was neither uniform nor purely ideological. The core of the AFP article relied upon a Twitter post from Mick Mulvaney to make the Trump Administration’s case for conservative opposition. Among others, the tweet cited:
–unsustainable growth of Obamacare
–new enrollees not experiencing health improvement
–expansion favoring able-bodied adults
–expansion being fiscally and morally irresponsible
Even if one assumes these bullet points are evidence-based policy, the AFP document states without equivocation that Mulvaney’s tweet officially debunks the implied support of the Trump Administration for the House’s plan to expand Medicaid in Virginia. The spoiler alert is that a third of the 51 GOP House majority voted for the expansion.
One does not need a degree in linguistics to parse the fallacy, inconsistency, and self-serving character of this announcement, especially as it is based upon the preceding factors. One also does not need to be versed in conservative discourse to identify the absence of conservative political criticism. Unless, of course, the tweet is in some form of Newspeak. More importantly, what was the point of the question posed by the Times-Dispatch? Without a foundation upon which to assert a conservative criticism, there is no answer to the question. Given the reams of journalistic endeavors to rationalize and criticize the ACA or Obamacare or Medicaid expansion, a review of the material communicates that the major conservative rationale for opposition is the name Obama associated with the program.
So, had the Times-Dispatch phrased the question Why would someone from a strongly conservative district vote for expanding Obamacare?, the proposition would have been more clearly conservative but still without rational policy underpinnings. This revised version would fit more neatly with conservative ideology as it employed the term Obama and certainly is an “official” hallmark of the current administration. The dearth of policy rationales to support conservative or liberal criticism of the ACA deprives readers of intellectual opportunities to reach conclusions. Deficient reportage is hollow reportage.