A new meme is taking hold: Democrats are increasingly convinced they have turned a corner politically, thanks to the announcement of seven million Obamacare signups and the release of the Paul Ryan budget. That’s the topic of a big New York Times piece today, and others are making the same observation.
The seven million was no doubt an important moment in confirming that the law is functioning more or less as intended. But caution is advised. The significance of the seven million number has always been overstated, in both policy and political terms. It doesn’t tell us much about the law’s long term prospects, which will turn on the demographic mix and on how the marketplaces function in individual states. Similarly, it would not have meant much for the law long term if it had fallen short of seven million. Politically, the idea that the fate of numerous Dems rises or falls with Obamacare enrollment numbers has always been hyped. Similarly, the notion that the law will pose significantly less of a problem for Dems because the magic seven million has been hit is also overstated.
But one positive side development here is that we may now see more skepticism directed at the Republican claim that the law is nothing but a political jackpot for GOP candidates and lawmakers.
Indeed, there appears to be a growing acknowledgment that the Republican posture of Total War opposition to Obamacare is untenable. The aforementioned Times story highlights another good example of this: Seventy five House Members, including 18 Republicans that count hard core conservatives in their ranks, have now written a letter to the administration requesting minor changes to HealthCare.Gov to ease enrollment — meaning they’re now prepared to to help constituents with the law. Look how one House Republican justifies this apostasy:
“The law’s real. It’s there,” said Representative Reid Ribble, Republican of Wisconsin and a signer of the letter. “You’re seeing a recognition that the law’s in place, and if our constituents are going to be penalized for it, the federal government ought to make it work.”
Count this as progress of a sort: As grudging as this is, it suggests at least the possibility that Republicans could transition into a phase where they’re willing to enter into genuine negotiations over the law’s future. This seems like a roundabout admission that the politics of the law are shifting, now that its concrete benefits are kicking in for many lawmakers’ constituents.
The debate over Obamacare has been marred by one bogus narrative after another. But if the achievement of seven million sign-ups will prompt folks to take a more nuanced look at the politics of the law, and to acknowledge that the politics of this debate very well may be changing over time (after all, election day is seven months away), that’s a positive step.
* DEMS WILL RUN HARD AGAINST RYAN BUDGET: Meanwhile, the New York Times piece also reports that Dems see the Paul Ryan budget as an important moment, because it gives them a way to dramatize what GOP control of Congress would really mean. Key quote from Senator Dick Durbin:
“Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.”
Eight House Republicans are running for Senate, which means as many as six eventual GOP Senate nominees will likely have voted for the Ryan plan.
* NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR BEING WRONG ABOUT OBAMACARE? Related to my lead item above, E.J. Dionne has an interesting column asking: Will folks be a bit more skeptical next time of Republican and conservative claims that this or that metric proves, just proves, that Obamacare is a total failure? Key:
Given how many times the law’s enemies have said the sky was falling when it wasn’t, will there be tougher interrogation of their next round of apocalyptic predictions? Will their so-called alternatives be analyzed closely to see how many now-insured people would actually lose coverage under the “replacement” plans?
Perhaps more importantly, will we finally be honest about the real argument here: Do we or do we not want to put in the effort and money it takes to guarantee all Americans health insurance? If we do — and we should — let’s get on with doing it the best way we can.
As noted above, one would also like to see a bit of skepticism directed at the GOP argument that Obamacare can prove nothing but an enormous political winner for Republicans this fall.
* THE LATEST ON THE GEORGIA SENATE RACE: Dem candidate Michelle Nunn is up with her first ad, which proclaims that she is running for Senate despite widespread hatred of Washington because she is an “optimist.” You’re going to see Dems in the toughest races working hard to forge a positive personal bond with voters, as a way of separating themselves from Washington arguments that tilt against Democrats in red states.
* TECH INDUSTRY CUTTING SIDE DEALS ON IMMIGRATION? The Wall Street Journal reports that tech interests, having grown increasingly pessimistic about comprehensive reform, may be quietly trying to get their own priority (high skilled visas) through Congress. They deny backing off the broader goal.
The larger story: Center-right interests are getting increasingly frustrated by House GOP inaction, which they fear is cutting them out of the process; but simultaneously they are failing to bring enough pressure to bear to force action.
* WHITE HOUSE OUTMANEUVERING GOP ON OBAMACARE: TPM has an interesting look at how the White House, by making unilateral changes to the law to make enrollment run more smoothly, has left the GOP with no meaningful ways to undermine the law with their own “fixes.” As the lead item above notes, you may eventually see a transition into a phase where Republicans are willing to enter into genuine negotiations over the law’s future.
* CHARLES KOCH FIGHTS BACK: He takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to fight back against his critics, insisting he is fighting a freedom war against “collectivists” who would reduce millions “to a life of poverty, dependency, and hopelessness.” He complains critics haven’t tried to “understand my vision for a free society.”
Whatever Koch’s vision, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity has spent $30 million on ads designed to transfer control of the Senate to the GOP, with the stated goal of getting Obamacare repealed, which would take coverage away from millions. He’s going to get some pushback.
* AND KOCH’S VISION OF A “FREE AND OPEN SOCIETY”: Responding to Charles Koch’s op ed, in which he laments the collectivists’ opposition to “free and open debate,” Jonathan Chait gets to the heart of it:
In the kind of “free and open” debate he imagines, Koch would continue to use his fortune to wield massive political influence, and nobody would ever say anything about him that makes him unhappy. Luckily, Koch restrains himself from overtly comparing the Obama administration to Hitler and Stalin, instead likening it to unnamed 20th century “despots.” No character assassination here!