Two years after the signing of ObamaCare by Barack Obama, it might be a little difficult to recall how political strategists in the Democratic Party predicted it would impact their party’s fortunes. Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown walks through five assumptions publicly offered about the politics of the ObamaCare push that turned out to be, well … as accurate as its fiscal projections (via Jim Geraghty):
President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies thought their political assumptions were airtight during the yearlong battle to overhaul the health care system.
Voters would reward them, they thought, even if Democrats muscled a bill through without Republican support. It was just a matter of getting out of Washington and selling the law. Obama would lead the charge, and rank-and-file Democrats would proudly campaign on the achievement.
None of it worked out that way.
At the two-year mark Friday, nearly everything that Democrats believed about the politics of health care has turned out to be false. And the cost of those miscalculations has been huge. They have haunted Obama’s presidency, soured business as usual at the Capitol and upended the conventional wisdom peddled by political strategists, who have rarely been so wrong about something so big.
In large part, these political strategists told themselves what they wanted to hear, in the hopes that wish fulfillment would follow. By the summer of 2009, the political trajectory of ObamaCare was evident, as angry voters flooded townhall meetings held by Democrats in Congress to express their disgust over the government takeover of health care. Rather than listen, Congressional Democrats simply stopped holding townhalls altogether to avoid the feedback, while claiming that the protests were just “Astroturf” on behalf of insurance companies — another assumption that proved false in the midterm elections.
What else did Democrats tell themselves that summer? Brown has this quote from Howard Dean in late August 2009 from his appearance on MSNBC: “[A] lot of the things that have been done that have helped seniors in particular have been done without Republican support at all and there’s not going to be any political penalty. The only political penalty [that] will be suffered is if we don’t pass a bill, and the Republicans know that.” How wrong did this turn out to be? Dean wasn’t the only one making this point, but the end result showed that the only thing worse than not passing an unpopular bill once you’ve floated it is to actually pass it. As in the film War Games, the ultimate winning move is not to play.
Not that Obama took this lying down, either. In January 2010, two months before the bill came to a vote, Obama urged his fellow Democrats to muscle up and pass the bill — and that he would protect them by making the sale: “[T]hat’s why I’ll be out there waging a great campaign from one end of the country to the other, telling Americans with insurance or without what they stand to gain; about the arsenal of consumer protections; about the long-awaited stability that they’re going to begin to experience.” And how well did that work out? The midterms tell you all you need to know — the loss of 68 seats in the House in the worst midterm drubbing for a President since 1938.
Jim Geraghty says that the lessons Brown lays out should give us even more pause about the impact of the policy:
If professional politicians completely misjudged the politics of the legislation they were passing, think about how well they assessed the policy implications of what they passed!
They didn’t turn out to be geniuses after all, eh? Small wonder that two-thirds of Americans want the bill rolled back in part or in whole. And small wonder that Democrats now want to talk about almost anything else but ObamaCare.
Meanwhile, the NRCC gets in on the ObamaCare anniversary with this ad parody:
Doesn’t Grandma look a little like … Olympia Snowe?