Instead, it has adopted a whatever-it-takes mentality to overcome the opposition. It will use force or stealth as needed to get its way.
The delay in the employer mandate should quiet business opposition until after the 2014 election; the IRS decision should keep non-cooperating states from opting out of exchanges.
Unlike most previous social-policy milestones, this law was jammed through Congress over the opposition of all Republicans, some Democrats and most of the public.
The financial crisis had delivered the Democrats such large majorities in 2008 that they could accomplish longstanding ideological goals that had nothing to do with that crisis.
Nor did Obama himself have a mandate for the law, having campaigned against some of its most controversial features - for instance, the individual mandate and the new taxes on health insurance - during his 2008 presidential run.
* Fifth, the law's problems aren't simply the result of Republican sabotage, as many of its supporters say.
It is an odd defense of a law - especially one that most people oppose - to say that it would work well if only the country were uniformly behind it. And last week's delay undermines this defense.
The administration simply flinched from the economic consequences of the law; Republicans had nothing to do with it.
* Sixth, opposition to Obamacare is reasonable.
Democrats have been portraying any disagreement with the law as pathological, a break from the standard practice in which the losing side of a legislative debate reconciles itself to defeat and works with the winners.
But the law is itself a break from standard practices in several respects, it remains unpopular, and the administration has now effectively conceded that it's seriously flawed and not set in stone.
There is no reason, then, to give up on replacing this law with something better.
Ramesh Ponnuru, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor at National Review, is a Bloomberg View columnist.