President Obama dropped the mic on Tuesday.
In a speech standing beside Joe Biden (and his finger guns) the president heralded the healthcare law meeting its 7 million signup milestone. …
He also asked a question. “I’ve got to admit, I don’t get it,” the president said. “Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance? Why are they so mad about the idea of folks having health insurance?”
Yeah, why is that?
When the president touted the new-found success of “Obamacare,” he didn’t mention the larger number of Americans who now have access to healthcare, either because they’re 26 or younger and on their parents’ plan, or because they signed up directly through insurance companies (because ACA makes certain plans more affordable), or because of the Medicaid expansion – numbers the Rand Corporation has estimated are much larger than 7 million, and are perhaps considerably larger.
That’s not to mention the more than 100 million American insurance-holders who are able to take advantage of the ACA’s other popular provisions, like free cancer screenings, without having to ever make contact with healthcare.gov.
And therein lies the answer to the president’s question.
Because what if the healthcare law, which has been taken for granted in “the narrative” as an objectively bad thing for Democrats, turns out not to be bad for the party that passed universal healthcare all by itself, with not a single Republican signing on?
What if Democrats, who are now are in a position to run as the defenders of those new-found benefits, stand to be the political beneficiaries, rather than the victims, of “Obamacare”?
The fact that polls find the Affordable Care Act unpopular has become almost cliché. But what’s also true is that a majority of Americans, across a range of polls, also oppose the idea of repeal, with 53 percent of respondents who said they disapprove of the Affordable Care Act in the latest Pew poll saying they nonetheless want politicians to make the law work. In that poll, about a third said they favor repeal, with 13 percent saying they want the law left as is. In total, that’s a margin of two thirds to one third for keeping “Obamacare” in place.
A recent Bloomberg poll, taken even before the law hit its Monday milestone, finds that the law is becoming more entrenched, with 51 percent of respondents favoring keeping it in place with “small modifications,” versus 13 percent wanting it to remain as-is, and 34 percent favoring repeal.
That entrenchment is what Republicans fear, and it’s why they fought so hard to never allow Obamacare to take root in the first place.
The GOP made a calculation, starting in 2009, to totally oppose healthcare reform – and then to do everything they could to undermine it, including actually saying healthcare reform includes “death panels.”
Now, with maybe seven, maybe 10, maybe 15, maybe 20 million Americans on the program in some form or fashion, what’s the “winning” Republican message this fall? “Hey, gimme back that insurance card, because… freedom?”
The biggest risk for the GOP has never been that healthcare reform fails. It’s that it succeeds, and that – as Obamacare settles in as an uncontroversial fact of American life – the zeal to undo it seeps out of the broad electorate by November (when, by the way, another open enrollment period kicks in).
The other risk? That Democrats finally get smart, stop listening to pundits who egg them on to run from the law in their campaigns, and figure out how to run on Obamacare, and against the Republicans who stood in its way.
There’s evidence that it’s already happening. And that’s why they’re so mad.