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Former ACA critic: 'I can't even remember why I opposed it'

Some of the Americans who opposed the Affordable Care Act years ago are suddenly discovering they like "Obamacare" after all.
A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare in Miami, Fla in 2015. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)
A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare in Miami, Fla in 2015.

When the fight over the Affordable Care Act was at its height, both major parties effectively took a political gamble. Democrats believed that once "Obamacare" became law, and families started enjoying the benefits of the vastly improved system, the overheated controversy would fade and the ACA's popularity would grow.

Republicans, meanwhile, bet on the opposite. The right believed, through a combination of lies, demagoguery, and ridiculous predictions, it could convince much of the nation's mainstream that "Obamacare" would shred the fabric of American life. These attitudes, conservatives assumed, would be quickly ingrained, to the point that the reform law would never receive public acceptance.

Several years later, with the Affordable Care Act's popularity reaching new heights, there's every reason to believe Democratic expectations were more correct than their GOP counterparts. The New York Times has an interesting piece on the attitudes of voters in Doylestown, Pa., where locals didn't like "Obamacare" -- until recently.

[S]entiment here reflects the polls -- and how they have shifted. Many people still have little understanding of how the law works. But Democrats and independents have rallied around it, and many of those who opposed it now accept the law, unwilling to see millions of Americans stripped of the coverage that it extended to them."I can't even remember why I opposed it," said Patrick Murphy, who owns Bagel Barrel, on a quaint and bustling street near Mr. Brahin's law office here in Doylestown.

He went on to tell the Times, "Everybody needs some sort of health insurance." In apparent reference to Republicans, Murphy added, "They're trying to repeal Obamacare but they don't have anything in place."

We have a pretty good idea, of course, why some folks like these opposed the ACA. After all, some powerful and wealthy groups spent many months and several million dollars to convince people of ... all sorts of things. There'd be a "government takeover." The country would go "bankrupt." There'd be "death panels." "Obamacare" would create "Armageddon." Change can be scary, and assorted partisans and ideologues exploited that fear as best they could.

The trouble is, as ridiculous as this rhetoric was at the time, no sane person could believe the claims now. The predictions simply didn't come true -- to the point that some no longer remember why they were inclined to believe the nonsense in the first place.

And now, along come Republicans, who were wrong about pretty much every possible aspect of the ACA debate, telling people to trust them. Once their far-right alternative is in place, they say, glorious "freedom" will spread throughout the land. Tens of millions of Americans won't be able to affordable medical care anymore, the costs for families will impose crushing new burdens, and people will pay more for worse coverage, but Republicans are staking their credibility on their regressive and unpopular plan.

I wonder how many articles we'd see in seven years with voters saying, "I can't even remember why I supported it."