Can Democrats Neutralize Obamacare?
The Democrats also have to deal with a shrill but very well-funded environmental advocacy faction that seems to have appeal mostly to wealthy single-issue zealots in California and Massachusetts. Unfortunately for them, climate change fails to resonate at all among average voters, who rank the issue near the very bottom of a list of 20 issues of importance. This year’s winter weather and the 17-year trend of stable temperatures not predicted by 95% of climate models have been an embarrassment to this faction.
Voters care more about job prospects and having affordable health insurance. On this front, recent CBO estimates that a) Obamacare might result in the loss of over two million full-time equivalent jobs and that b) raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will result in a the loss of another half-million jobs have been damaging to the ability of Democrats to escape the economy.
The attempt to neutralize the Obamacare issue contains a few themes for candidates: the GOP has wasted too much time on repeal votes; it’s time to move on to solving the law’s problems; and Republicans want to return to the days where insurance companies took advantage of customers. Some Democrats also are resurrecting the claim that Republicans will gut Medicare.
Bashing insurance companies, always a popular theme for Democrats, may not play well this year, as Republicans are highlighting that Obamacare provides three years of subsidies for insurance companies through risk corridors. There are rumors that these corridors may be further extended. If the Obama administration is working to secure lower rates in coming years through subsidies, this crony capitalism will undercut political arguments about evil insurers and their practices.
The reality is that most Americans do not expect Obamacare to be defunded, or repealed, even though strong majorities continue to have a negative view of the law. But they would prefer that it work better and disrupt their lives less.
The administration, knowing that their signature legislation was a lemon and that the roll-out was almost certainly going to be a disaster, missed the opportunity to put the whole program on hold for a year -- as some Republicans were demanding last fall.
As is their habit, the Obama team chose to go forward with their legislative mess rather than hand the Tea Party a political victory. Delaying the implementation for a year might have enabled Obama’s team to come up with more comprehensive changes and to avoid the misery of six million cancelled policies. It might have given them a chance to deal with Obama’s big lie: “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.” Democrats got the gift of a government shutdown for two weeks, which badly hurt Republicans in opinion polls and allowed for some grandstanding by certain members of the party. But when a deal was struck to reopen the government and to extend the debt ceiling, the Obamacare debacle was on full display without distracting issues.
Opinions get set, and when they do, they are hard to reverse. Most American think Obamacare was a poorly designed and unnecessarily complex piece of legislation, and that the administration badly botched the rollout. Trying to squeeze some lemonade from this lemon will almost certainly fail, despite the endless spinning. The single most disturbing poll result for the administration was the recent survey that showed a large majority of Americans (74%) were disturbed by the administration bypassing Congress by issuing executive orders to change Obamacare and other laws.
It hardly seems likely that Democrats can talk their way out of their Obamacare votes and “neutralize” the issue.