Thursday, July 18, 2013

Electoral Benefits Of Obamacare

Paul Krugman and Matt Yglesias think Obamacare will help Democrats politically. Ezra Klein disagrees. I'm mostly with Paul and Matt. 

Ezra is right that the beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act won't be aware that legislation passed in 2010 by House and Senate Democrats, and signed into law by Barack Obama, is the source of those benefits. Rather, they'll just think of it as "Medicaid" or a state exchange program called "Covered California" or some such. But even if their allegiance is to those programs rather than Barack Obama or Democrats, they'll oppose anybody who wants to take those programs away. People don't have to know anything about Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt to love Medicare or Social Security, and to oppose candidates who want to defund those programs. 

And that gets us to the core of the disagreement:
Insofar as the coverage Obamacare offers is popular, and it probably will be, the core program will become untouchable. We’ll go from “repeal-and-replace” — though Republicans never did come up with the “replace” part — to “tweak-and-improve”. But I doubt it’ll ever move the needle much for Democrats. By the time a frontal repeal assault would be bad national politics for Republicans, they’ll probably have abandoned it.
A Republican Party this sensitive to national politics is a very different animal from the elephant of today. Over the last two election cycles, the GOP base (use the words 'Tea Party' if you like) has cost the party between four and seven Senate seats by picking extreme candidates when electable moderates were available. A big portion of their base hates Obamacare because of what Fox News and Rush Limbaugh told them about it. They're going to hate it as long as they live, and vote in primaries for Republicans who oppose it in the strongest possible way. As a result, voters will be presented with a Republican Party that wants to defund Covered California and a Democratic Party that supports it. That's a situation that Democrats can be very happy about. 
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