Obamacare delenda est

Opposed by a majority from the outset, passed with a temporary legislative super-majority that had to resort to skullduggery to overcome the will of the people, now protected by gridlock.  Still opposed by a majority.

James Taranto, in his Best of the Web column, writes about Susan Page’s story in USA Today in which she claims ObamaCare’s implementation difficulties (as one Democratic Senator termed it, a coming “traing wreck”) are the GOP’s fault:

But where does Page get the idea that Republican lawmakers are the ones who have made it difficult for ObamaCare to succeed? That claim is not only unsupported but unsupportable. We’d go so far as to say it’s preposterous on its face.

Do political leaders respond to public opinion, or is it the other way around? When you put the question that way, it’s a chicken-and-egg conundrum: The influence goes both ways, and the mechanisms of causation are far more complicated than the oviparous reproductive cycle in which a particular chicken hatches from an egg and goes on to lay another one.

But in this case the overall direction of causation is clear, and it is the opposite of what Page suggests. ObamaCare has lacked broad public support from its inception in 2009, when there were not enough Republican lawmakers to stop it from being enacted. The Republican House majority is an effect of ObamaCare, not the other way around.

“When Obama signed the law more than three years ago, supporters predicted Americans would embrace it as some of the most popular provisions went into effect,” Page observes farther down in the story. “But that turnaround in public opinion hasn’t happened, at least not yet.”

In the USA Today poll (which is of adults, not registered voters), only 26% strongly approve of ObamaCare; 41% strongly disapprove, just one point shy of the proportion who approve at all, even “not so strongly.” Total disapproval is 53%.The same proportion disapprove of “the way Obama is handling health care policy,” traditionally a Democratic strength.

Quite apart from the law’s merits, what Page has described is an enormous political miscalculation. Unlike in the Syria case, Obama had the political strength to push this legislation through Congress (if barely). But while it’s easy to imagine he was and remains disdainful of public opinion on the matter, it’s almost certain that he expected it to turn around by now. In a White House address today, the president tried to rationalize away the political adversity noting to applause from supporters that in the 2012 presidential election, “the candidate who called for repeal lost.”

Page’s formulation of Republicans’ making it difficult for the law to succeed by influencing public opinion is not only wrongheaded as an analytical matter but is a clear expression of partisan bias. GOP lawmakers are not some exogenous force but democratically elected members of a coequal branch of government.

And earlier in the same piece:

The opening clause, noting that Republicans have failed to repeal the law, is true but trivial. Given the results of the 2010 and 2012 elections and the realities of bicameralism and the presidential veto, a repeal effort could have been successful by now only if it were broadly bipartisan–if it had the support of the president or a large number of Democratic lawmakers.

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