The political establishment has obviously been deeply invested this week in exploring the technical problems associated with the Affordable Care Act’s website, and the glitches are now the core Republican message. But there’s always been a serious flaw with the GOP’s strategy.
For one thing, tech troubles don’t reflect on the underlying merits of “Obamacare” itself. For another, as some in the party are starting to realize, website glitches, no matter how severe or systemic, can be fixed (via Greg Sargent).
Privately, certain Republicans express concern with the party’s decision to focus so much attention on a website that could very well be fixed over the next few months, instead of calling attention to other potentially problematic aspects of the law. And polls show support for Republicans remains way down, while support for Obamacare is still ticking up.
I get the sense that GOP officials, feeling desperate after their party’s standing went into free fall after their government shutdown, saw website glitches as a life-preserver. Don’t ask too many questions, they said, just hold on before we sink even further.
But as the storm subsides, Republicans find themselves adrift with an unhelpful floatation device. They’re not only attacking a health care law that’s far more popular than they are, they’re also relying heavily on a problem with a finite end. Assuming the website issues can be resolved in a reasonable amount of time, GOP lawmakers will be left with the “We still don’t like it” talking point, which the American mainstream probably won’t find especially persuasive.
What’s more, if we take this one step further, the post-policy thesis comes into sharper focus. Republicans have no real intention of improving the health care system or helping consumers have greater access to affordable coverage. Indeed, there are no policy goals at play whatsoever. If you watched yesterday’s hearing on Capitol Hill, you may have noticed there were no moments in which GOP lawmakers stopped complaining and started talking about actual substantive solutions.
Is it any wonder Republicans are “privately” concerned they’ll be stuck after the website has been repaired?
And what does it say about a major party that its biggest hope right now is that an under-performing website will fail, preventing a policy success for tens of millions of people?