Commentary Magazine


ObamaCare’s Desperate Defenders

Liberal opinion writers who feel duty-bound to defend President Obama’s signature health-care reform law have been quite creative in trying to blame the GOP for the flaws in what was a law passed by Democrats against bipartisan and public opposition. The most recent narrative, that Republicans are “sabotaging” the law, is quite clearly nonsensical. But they are opinion writers, so we can understand their efforts to spin the policy failure.

Yet there is really no excuse for supposedly impartial reporters to not only infuse their news writing with such silliness but even openly rant about it as a prelude to the facts. That, however, is exactly what USA Today does when reporting on the latest USA Today/Pew Research poll on ObamaCare. The poll finds that–surprise!–the unpopular law is still unpopular. And in fact there’s some news in this one: only 49 percent of the uninsured approve of it, with 46 percent disapproving. That means the targets of the law’s new entitlement structure are pretty evenly divided on whether they even want what the government is offering.

You have to go Pew’s website for that piece of information. The USA Today piece is mostly an epic rant against the GOP. Here is how the article opens (and remember, this is a newspaper, not a left-wing blog or the president’s press secretary):

Republican lawmakers have failed in dozens of attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but a new USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll shows just how difficult they have made it for President Obama’s signature legislative achievement to succeed.

As the health care exchanges at the heart of the law open for enrollment in two weeks, the public’s views of it are as negative as they have ever been, and disapproval of the president’s handling of health care has hit a new high. Confusion and misinformation about the law haven’t significantly abated, especially among the law’s main targets.

That makes it sound like Republicans are sowing “confusion and misinformation”–after all, the first paragraph tells us they are the ones who have “made it” difficult for the law to succeed. But then in the very next paragraph, we are told this:

Among the 19% polled who are uninsured, nearly four in 10 don’t realize the law requires them to get health insurance next year. Among young people, whose participation is seen as crucial for the exchanges to work, just 56% realize there’s a mandate to be insured or face a fine.

So in other words, the most controversial aspects of the law, and the ones Republicans have been shouting about from the beginning, still have not fully seeped into the public consciousness. And USA Today thinks this is holding back support for the law? Because people don’t know the government is now forcing them to buy a product or face a fine? I’m guessing that if USA Today would like some help getting the word out about the individual mandate, Republicans would be happy to pitch in.

No story like this would be complete, of course (though keep in mind we haven’t even approached the in-depth explanation of the poll itself), without a wildly out-of-proportion (and factually unsustainable) historical analogy:

“There has been a full-court press from Day One from the opposition to characterize and demonize the plan,” says Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, who wrote about the GOP efforts in a 2012 book about Washington he co-authored, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. “The campaign against the law after it was enacted, the range of steps taken, the effort to delegitimize it — it is unprecedented. We’d probably have to go back to the nullification efforts of the Southern states in the pre-Civil War period to find anything of this intensity.”

Republicans have pursued their opposition to ObamaCare through the constitutional process. First, Republicans and Democrats rallied public opinion. Then they voted against the law. Then they challenged the law’s constitutionality in court. They lost. Now they are trying to pass congressional legislation to either repeal the bill or limit its harm. When they lose, they do not pretend they won; they simply redouble their efforts for another try, which is what really bothers commentators like Mann.

This whole process, of advocating for the concerns of their constituents and then taking part in the legislative process, is a pretty basic part of congressional work. That leftists don’t seem to understand it or have patience for it is unfortunate. That they are enraged beyond reason by it is more than troubling. That some of them, like USA Today and think-tankers like Thomas Mann, have identified this democratic process as the enemy pretty conclusively demonstrates that it isn’t the Republican Party or the conservative movement whose adherents have become unhinged by ObamaCare, but the president’s increasingly desperate supporters.

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