04/02/2014 12:36 pm ET Updated Jun 02, 2014

The Debate Is Over on Repealing Obamacare

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act who criticize it as socialist or liberal either don't have a meaningful understanding of those terms or of the law, or both.

Beyond vague platitudes about Obamacare being a massive government takeover of health care (it isn't) or an oppressive tax (it's not that either), there is an absence of cogent, specific reasons why expanding access to health care and enacting basic patient protections from onerous insurance practices amounts to bad policy, let alone how private market-driven health care amounts to socialism and Obamacare is liberal.

Liberals didn't get most of what they wanted in this bill. Not single-payer care. Not even a public option. And, thanks to conservative opposition and a divided ruling in the Supreme Court, they didn't even get expanded Medicare/Medicaid in all 50 states. One salient statistic often lost in the din of media reports on public opposition to the law is that 12 percent of those who oppose it do so because it's not liberal enough.

Today, as the exchanges met the administration's original goal of 7 million enrollees, health care costs in the United States as a share of GDP have dropped for the first time since 1997 and nearly 10 million formerly uninsured/uninsurable Americans have health insurance because of Obamacare. Why is this bad?

If Republicans hadn't tirelessly worked for four years to thwart and undermine the law, the number of newly insured Americans would be even higher. Nearly half the nation's uninsured would be available for coverage under the Medicaid expansion if all 50 states participated, but by allowing states to opt out, the Supreme Court opened the door for Republican governors and legislators to deny insurance access to tens of millions of fellow Americans. And while arguments for full repeal pepper the speeches of far-right politicians and provide red meat for a political base increasingly disconnected from reality, not a single critic of the law and proponent of repeal has offered any plausible proposals for what it should be replaced with.

Conservatives keen on the notion of American exceptionalism are right about at least one thing: The US is exceptional as the only advanced nation in the world with a major political party and large number of citizens claiming to be patriotic while rooting for the total failure and full repeal of a law designed to ensure basic health coverage and concomitant economic protections for everyone.

As the president said in his Rose Garden remarks yesterday, "The debate over repealing this law is over." Ten million Americans who didn't have health insurance now do and there is much more work to do moving forward. Why should we step back from that and what would conservatives like to go back to?