If there is one piece of legislation in modern history that has ever dogged a political party it has to be Obamacare. Campaigning in 2008 then Senator Obama promised all Americans if elected he would solve the nation’s skyrocketing premiums, lower the deficit and cover millions of uninsured Americans.
After the messy passage of Obamacare in 2009 and 2010 with all its kickbacks and other glories the public grew increasingly worried about the law and its impact on a fragile economy. Hence, Republicans virtually wiped out all vestiges of the Democratic Congressional delegation in the South.
Since its passage however the debate over the law has largely been theoretical. Despite all the dire warnings and worries over the law it was fought in a real-world impact nether land. Even as Republicans pushed to repeal the bill multiple times between 2011 and now the public largely yawned and focused on other issues; abortion, the economy, the environment, etc. As a Republican campaign manager says ” Back then it was all a theoretical problem that future-Joe Voter was going to have to deal with, so human nature being what it is, most people decided to just worry about it later. Now if you didn’t get a cancellation notice in the mail you at least know someone who did. If you didn’t have trouble logging onto the website you at least know someone who did. It got real in a hurry.”
On October 1st that changed. For the first time Americans got to see and feel the disaster that is Obamacare and they certainly have not liked it. They have not liked the fact the website to access the state exchange plans has been down since that fateful day, they have not liked the fact the President lied when he said “If you like your plan you can keep it,” and they have not liked the fact nobody seems willing to try and fix the law or at least delay it. Furthermore, Americans have been unimpressed with higher premiums for “better” plans and the lack of security for the federal portal. One wonders how those with insurance through their employer will feel when the business mandate goes into effect in 2015 (delayed from 2013)?
The disaster that is this monstrosity has already had an impact on polls, political agendas and the overall political climate. In regards to polls gone are the surveys showing the GOP being demolished in the midterms in the wake of the government shutdown. Individual state and Senate race polls as well as generic ballot surveys show the GOP rebounding strongly.
In the realm of political agendas the Democratic controlled Senate has only been able to pass ENDA (a key issue for their base). But other issues they want to confront; abortion, minimum wage and further banking regulations have been shelved. For the President his domestic agenda lays in shambles. His hopes for entitlement reform (if he had any), immigration reform and cap and trade are gone. Instead, the President is playing damage control and losing the trust of the American public. Most notably, not only have his approval ratings tanked but his trustworthiness among the voting public is almost gone. Call Bush about how the rest of his second term went when that happened.
What a turnaround the political climate has taken from being toxic for Republicans in the middle of October to being fully with them. Democrats now are the ones swimming against the stream. One by one Democrats, not just in red states or swing Congressional districts, are being forced to admit the law they crafted is either deeply flawed, needs to be reformed or the Individual Mandate needs to be delayed. Incidentally, the IM delay was originally a GOP idea and furthermore not a single Republican in Congress today voted for Obamacare. Democrats fully own this law.
Democrats own the fact over 5 million (at last count) have had their health insurance plans cancelled, they own the fact premiums are skyrocketing, they own the fact that barely 100,000 people have even signed up on the exchanges (and that is even counting those who just put a plan in their cart) and they own the fact they voted for this monstrosity when a majority of the public did not want them to do so.
Democrats and the President simply have no way to hide from the law nor fix it in the short term. Through a combination of mandates, intimidation tactics and lofty promises full of empty rhetoric (or lies) they have boxed themselves into a corner they cannot get out of.
Certainly many Democrats will be insulated from the electoral consequences of the law. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and other members of the Democratic House Leadership would not be voted out of office even if they lost the national House vote 60-40. Wave elections cannot crest the shores of San Francisco or urban Maryland. But what it can do is wipe out vulnerable, red state Democratic Senators, Democratic gubernatorial nominees, Congressional candidates and Congressional incumbents in red or swing districts. Meanwhile, Republicans in swing or left leaning districts may be insulated from a tough race next year due to the national political environment.
In the 2016 Presidential race, whoever runs, whether it be Hilary on the Left or Christie on the Right this law will be front and center in the campaign. Gone will be a Republican Presidential candidate who is afraid to talk about it because he passed a smaller version in his home state (Romneycare) and gone will be the theoretical public policy debates over the impact of the law. The impact of the law will have been felt by the American public for over three years by the time November 2016 rolls around and you can bet it will impact some voters choices as well as business with their mandate set to go into effect in 2015.
Now, I am not naive enough to say this is the dawning of the end of modern liberalism. It may just be the dawning of the end of a technocratic form of liberalism or it could just be viewed by many voters as a failure of a single President and Congress to gung-ho to do something about a problem rather than actually take time to study and fix the problem. Either way, it bodes badly for Democrats in the here and now and in the future.