Trying to pussyfoot around Obamacare was an awkward strategy, and, evidently, it didn’t work. If other Democrats are to avoid meeting Sink’s fate in November, they need something more convincing to say about the Affordable Care Act than “mend it, don’t end it,” which is now their default position. But what could that be?
Here’s a heretical idea. Rather than parsing the individual elements of the law, and trying to persuade voters on an à la carte basis, what about raising the stakes and defending the reform in its entirety as a historic effort to provide affordable health-care coverage to tens of millions of hard-working Americans who otherwise couldn’t afford it? Instead of shying away from the populist and redistributionist essence of the reform, which the White House and many Democrats in Congress have been doing since the start, it’s time to embrace it.
What would that mean? It would involve reaching out to the Democratic Party’s core voters—lower-income people, minorities, highly educated liberals—and portraying Obamacare as the fulfillment of the great human-rights project that began in the nineteen-thirties, under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was expanded during the nineteen-sixties, under Lyndon Johnson. That message wouldn’t merely be more honest; it would be more effective in getting Democratic voters to turn out in November, which is essential if the Party isn’t to suffer a repeat of 2010.