Lost in the hysteria is the painful reality that Gruber’s statements were largely accurate. Exploitation of political ignorance did help get Obamacare passed, and the public really is ignorant about both Obamacare specifically and political issues generally. Political strategists in both parties are well aware of the realities of political ignorance, and act accordingly in planning their campaigns. Both Democrats and Republicans routinely praise the wisdom of the voters, even as they shamelessly exploit public ignorance. When grilled by the congressional panel, Gruber should have quoted Michael Corleone in “The Godfather, Part II”: “Senator [or, in this case, Congressman], we’re both part of the same hypocrisy.”
The deceptions probably would not have succeeded in the absence of widespread political ignorance. People who studied the plan carefully could readily tell that the administration’s statements were deceptive. Forcing millions of people to buy more comprehensive and more expensive health insurance plans than they had previously was an important element of the Affordable Care Act. As health care experts on both sides of the debate recognized at the time, it is a feature not a bug – an essential part of the plan. But most voters don’t pay close attention to the details of government policy, and therefore enough fell for the deceptions to enable the law to pass.
The issue of political ignorance and its exploitation is a major problem that goes far beyond Jonathan Gruber and Obamacare. Hopefully, the Gruber saga will lead more people to take the issue seriously.