Why denying health insurance to 4 million Americans is smart — but deadly — politics for the GOP
This past weekend, “In just a year Obamacare goes from top Congress issue to barely mentioned” by The Washington Post‘s Colby Itkowitz topped Reddit’s muy popular r/politics page.
Itkowitz’s analysis was based on mentions by members of Congress:
It was last September when Republicans sparred with Democrats over the future of the health-care law, a disagreement that prompted a 17-day federal government shutdown and overall chaos. It was pretty much anyone on Capitol Hill talked about. Republicans wanted you to know how terrible it was for America, and Democrats wanted you to remember to sign up on Oct. 1.
In that month, a mere 12 months ago, the word Obamacare was uttered on the House and Senate floor 2,753 times, according to Sunlight Foundation’s database of floor speeches from the Congressional Record.
It’s a bit of an odd metric considering that Congress designs its entire schedule so it doesn’t have to campaign from Capitol Hill. But generally, Obamacare has mostly faded from being the reason the GOP exists to just another thing Republicans are against — except, apparently, in some red-leaning states.
Redditors from Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee all reported that the issue is inescapable.
“I live in NC and they still won’t shut up about it,” GreyyCardigan commented.
This is anecdotal evidence, of course, but it makes sense.
What do Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee have in common? They haven’t expanded Medicaid yet.
The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn looked at a Morning Consult poll and found what people already knew: Republicans like Obamacare when you don’t call it Obamacare, which is why Republicans call it Obamacare.
Bloomberg‘s Jonathan Bernstein and The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent have long predicted that Obamacare would become just another issue before the November election. Repeal is far less popular than keeping and improving the law. The word “Obamacare” is now just a shadowy specter of all the things about government and the health care system you’re supposed to hate, not the actual law that has helped over 10 million gain insurance as we’ve had the best year of job creation since 1999.
Republicans like Ted Cruz predicted that once people started giving coverage — especially fully, or nearly fully, subsidized coverage like Medicaid — it would become difficult to campaign against the law. And they were right.
When Healthcare.gov was still struggling, nearly every ad against Republican candidate for Senate in Michigan Terri Lynn Land was about Obamacare. Since expansion began in the state on April 1, I don’t believe even one ad from her or her supporters has touched on the issue.
In Arkansas where Medicaid was expanded, the Republican nominee for Senate Tom Cotton can’t quite campaign for full repeal but he can’t give repeal up either, or he’d risk being labeled a RINO. His supporters have been reduced running ads that recycle lies about Medicare cuts from 2012 and 2010, even though Cotton voted for Paul Ryan’s plan to gut Medicare over and over.
Pennsylvania adopting Medicaid expansion is truly a milestone because now a Republican candidate would have to win at least one state that has expanded coverage. It may have also signaled a change in the politics surrounding the law as Tennessee, Wyoming and Utah may all be following the Keystone State — hopefully in time to save Sherilyn Horrocks’ life.
The politics of running against a law that’s working leads anti-Obamacare “experts” to a constant stream of contradictory babble.
But in states where Obama is unpopular and Medicaid hasn’t been expanded, the smears may still work.
[Photo courtesy of Jill Farber-Bramson & Dr. Allan Bramson.]