We write often — in the interest of shaking conservatives from their slumber — about Republicans’ self-delusions (e.g. the shutdown will work). But nothing even the most irrational right-wing group has put forth compares to the swig of left-wing Kool Aid liberals are serving up for the 2014 elections.
Multiple presidential campaign loser Robert Shrum intones: “[Alex] Sink didn’t lose because of Obamacare. . . . Obamacare’s numbers are getting better and better — in both public opinion and enrollments. Democrats have the specifics on their side.”
Hmm. Actually support for Obamacare is pretty weak, especially in the red states in which many vulnerable Democrats must operate (e.g., Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota and Alaska).
Shrum imagines, I guess, that Democrats will tout help for those with pre-existing illnesses, 26-year-olds on their parents’ plans and an unknown number of people getting insurance for the first time. But the response is likely to swamp the Democrats, which explains why so many have already begun down the “fix it, don’t end it” road.
For starters, even if one accepts the categories of beneficiaries Shrum identifies, such people make up a small percentage of the population and an even smaller share of the midterm electorate. Second, those Dems who voted for Obamacare (unlike Sink) have a massive credibility problem having misrepresented the plan (e.g. keep your doctor, keep your health-care plan, boost economic growth); now they have to live down the Senate majority’s insistence that those complaining are a bunch of liars. Third, the administration’s bizarre embrace of subsidizing health care for those who choose not to work and its delight in the equivalent of more than 2 million fewer jobs is a juicy target for Republicans. It should give the GOP plenty of fodder for a populist appeal to working-class voters — the suckers who, I suppose, are supposed to work to subsidize those who’ve decided to become coach potatoes. Then there is all the rest: the spike in health-care premiums, the tax on high-tech medical-device companies, the fine for noncompliance with the individual mandate, the bad deal for young and healthy Americans and the raid on Medicare Advantage.
And Dems are supposed to run on Obamacare? Republicans would be delighted, but they shouldn’t be passive. Republicans should embrace a simple, easily explained Obamacare alternative. There are several plans, as we have discussed, that contain no mandate, keep kids on their parents’ plans, cover pre-existing conditions through high-risk pools and increase accessibility by interstate sales, extension of favorable tax treatment to individually purchased plans and use of refundable tax credits for modest-income people. On a nationalized election — which is what Obamacare has done to the 2014 contests — Republicans do need to preempt the argument that they’ll be taking away health care.
Shrum is right about one thing: “It would be self-delusion of the first order to assume health reform won’t be a central issue in 2014. Democrats can’t slink away, or crouch, or cut and run against their own record.” The problem is that defending Obamacare is also a nightmare. So what’s the answer? I’ve got no idea — I sure didn’t urge them to vote for it.