Commentary Magazine


Jonathan Chait, Delusional Regarding ObamaCare

The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait continues his indefatigable political defense of ObmamCare. One of his recent efforts, “Health Care as Political Scapegoat,” can be found here. He writes, as proof of his thesis, that “a recent Gallup poll shows that Democrats fare about evenly (+1) versus Republicans on health care — it’s one of the only issues where they don’t have a disadvantage.”

Now what might be missing from Chait’s analysis? Context.

As I pointed out here, in October 2006, the Democrats held a 64-percent v. 25-percent advantage over Republicans regarding health care. Today the lead is 44 percent v. 43 percent — a 38-point swing in favor of the GOP. That is a substantially larger swing than we’ve seen on combating terrorism (29 points), the economy (27 points), and handling corruption in government (26 points).

There is no other issue, in fact, over which Democrats have lost as much ground as quickly as over health care. What was once the strongest issue in the Democratic arsenal — an issue on which Democrats enjoyed public support for generations — has now turned politically neutral with respect to the support each party enjoys on it. Politico reports that it appears as though no Democratic incumbent in the House or in the Senate has run a pro-health-care reform TV ad since April, while a handful of House Democrats are making health-care reform an election-year issue — by running against it. Senator Ron Wyden, one of the Democratic Party’s leading experts on health care, recently wrote a letter to Bruce Goldberg, the director of the Oregon health authority, encouraging Oregon to seek a waiver from the individual mandate, which is a fundamental feature of Obama’s health-care overhaul (Wyden is running for reelection). And last month more than 70 percent of Missouri primary voters rejected ObamaCare’s individual mandate. It’s no wonder that Charlie Cook declared that pushing ObamaCare was a “colossal miscalculation” for Democrats.

Given the weight of the evidence, it is bordering on delusional to argue that ObamaCare hasn’t damaged Obama or the Democrats politically.

Dogmatists such as Chait seem unable to rethink their views in light of reality; instead, they are contorting their arguments to defend flawed premises (ObamaCare would be a success and viewed by the public as a success). Mr. Chait wouldn’t be the first to do such a thing. But it is a transparent effort – and, at this stage, a discrediting one.

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