On the surface, the Republican strategy on health care is proving to be more effective than they probably could have hoped. After waging a three-year sabotage campaign, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has gone poorly; Democrats are divided; President Obama's poll numbers are falling; the media is in a frenzy; the website still doesn't work; and no one seems to remember the time Republicans shut down the federal government -- just last month.
If RNC officials had written a script, it would look something like this.
And in the short term, at least as far as the politics are concerned, it's quite possible that nothing else will matter. But at some point, I wonder if the political world will pause to consider the Republican message with a little more depth.
A few weeks ago, Matt Miller raised an important point: "What conservative officials, pundits and advocates are screaming is closer to the following: How dare you totally screw up something that we think shouldn't exist!" Indeed, as we talked about as oversight hearings got underway a few weeks ago, conservatives are complaining about the functionality of a website that they'd just as soon destroy. They're furious Americans are struggling to sign up for benefits that Republicans don't want them to have. They're demanding better performance of a system they've spent years deliberately trying to gut, and have no intention of trying to help fix.
The contradiction was more acutely obvious yesterday, with the release of October enrollment numbers: 106,185 consumers signed up for health insurance through an exchange, another 396,261 Americans have gained coverage through Medicaid expansion, and another million consumers were deemed eligible for coverage but have not selected a plan. GOP lawmakers considered this hilarious, noting a variety of sports venues that hold more than 106,185 attendees.
And that's fine. Indeed, it's predictable. About 500,000 Americans signed up for health care coverage last month, but because that number was far below the Obama administration's original projections for the exchange marketplaces, critics of "Obamacare" want to take this opportunity to strut and gloat.
But that was yesterday. Today, I'd love to hear some of those same critics answer a couple of simple questions. First, for those mocking October enrollment numbers, do you wish that number was bigger or smaller? Because at this point, the answer appears to be "both," which doesn't make any sense. The Republican line currently seems to be, "We're outraged that the number was so small, and we wish the totals were zero."
That plainly doesn't make any sense.
Second, for the 106,185 Americans who signed up for coverage through an exchange, and the 396,261 Americans who are now insured under Medicaid, is the Republican position, "We'd prefer to leave you behind with nothing?" What about those who sign up for coverage in November? And December?