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What the Pundits Are Missing About ObamaCare

The error therefore was not in talking about cost-cutting. It was in running up the deficit first and hawking a government-run system which necessitates rationing.

The other sort of post-mortem analysis of ObamaCare focuses on process errors made by Obama and the Democrats. Andrea Tantaros lists the mistakes: message schizophrenia, hubris, playground tactics (“The left discounted the initial concern and anger of its constituents and insulted them by calling them ‘angry mobs’ and ‘evil.’"), poor planning (they didn’t anticipate much “pushback”) and ignoring the lessons of  HillaryCare.

Ross Douthat takes the same approach:

The White House’s messages have been mixed -- fiscal hawkery one day, moralism the next. The administration has allowed distractions like the Skip Gates affair to crowd out his agenda. It has overlearned the lessons of the Clinton-care debacle and given Congress too much leeway. It has underlearned the lessons of the Bush-era Social Security debacle and gone to war before there’s an actual piece of legislation on the table.

These observers are right, insofar as their analysis goes. Obama’s team has been extraordinarily incompetent and Obama himself has not helped his cause by overexposure, lame analogies (e.g., red pill/blue bill, the Post office[!]), and hostility toward dissent from ordinary citizens.

But again, the real issue here is the plan itself and, more importantly, the assumptions underlying it.

Obama simply miscalculated the American electorate’s willingness to throw out a health care system that insures over 80% of us, has led the world in technological innovation, and provides a good measure of autonomy for individuals to choose their doctors and treatment options. He had a terrible time selling ObamaCare because it was a terrible idea. It turns out Americans don't want to replace an imperfect but very good health care system with a lowest-common denominator, government-run system that has given worse care and led to greater dissatisfaction than private insurance when tried in other countries.

In the end it comes down to the substance of ObamaCare. Liberal pundits would rather talk about tactics because it deflects attention from the failings of their long-cherished dream of nationalized health care. Conservative activists don’t mind talking about the incompetence of The One. But ideas really matter and awful ideas like ObamaCare are, it turns out, quite hard to enact into law once the public wakes up to what is afoot.