I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to how the GOP handled the ACA debate, although I’m not sure that they couldn’t have come up with a viable alternative. A plan that relied on some combination of tax-exempt HSAs, increased funding for high-risk insurance pools, the importation of prescription drugs (which would align nicely with their support for free trade), tort reform relating to malpractice lawsuits, and a handful of other goodies might have sufficed, at least in the short term. But I do agree that there haven’t been any Republican healthcare proposals that would improve affordability and expand access the way that the ACA did.
“McCain did play along with his party on too many occasions where it felt cynical — like when he cozied up to the religious right to win their approval in 2008 — but, as they say, the approach of death provides great clarity.”
This is a totally fair point, and I actually thought about addressing this in the piece, but I was afraid it would distract from the broader point about legacies. That said, as someone who entertained voting for McCain in ’08, his outreach to the religious right was a bit too much for me. I mean, I get why he did it. When you’re running for president, you gotta do a little bit of pandering. There’s no way around that. But he always struck me as a guy who imposed certain boundaries on himself, boundaries that he would almost never cross if it meant acting in a way that contradicted his core beliefs. Unfortunately, I have to admit that if he didn’t cross those boundaries when he was campaigning in ’08, it sure seemed like he came very close to it on several occasions, most notably when he was courting social conservatives. Still, I give him the benefit the doubt because of how he handled the far-right BS about Obama being some sort of radical Manchurian-Muslim candidate. Between that and his everlasting opposition to torture, which IIRC earned him quite a few boos during one or two of the primary debates, I feel like he did a fairly decent job of resisting whatever urge he might have felt to sell himself out for more votes.