The campaign against health care didn’t end in March

THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST HEALTH CARE DIDN’T END IN MARCH…. Many proponents of health care reform, including me, hoped the Affordable Care Act would enjoy broader public support as the intense dispute faded. The ACA would become law; Americans would learn more about it; new popular benefits would kick in; and Americans would invariably begin to appreciate it more.

That obviously hasn’t happened, at least not yet. The numbers appeared to improve soon after President Obama signed the landmark bill into law, but in the ensuing months, support stalled and opposition inched higher.

One possible reason: those who invested heavily to kill health care reform kept investing to ensure Americans’ hostility for the breakthrough accomplishment.

Opponents of the legislation, including independent groups, have spent $108 million since March to advertise against it, according to Evan L. Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising.

That is six times more than supporters have spent, including $5.1 million by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the new law, Mr. Tracey said.

That’s right, there’s been more than $100 million in anti-reform advertising “since signed the bill into law in March. And many ads on health care contain multiple falsehoods and distortions.”

I’m not arguing that the ACA would be wildly popular were it not for the attack campaign, but let’s not forget, health care reform — at a conceptual level — has always been pretty popular. When President Obama first started pursuing this last year, opposition was initially very low. After all, he was elected in large part to deliver on reform after a century of trying.

What changed was a coordinated destruction campaign launched by insurance companies, right-wing activists, and Republicans desperate to prevent Democrats from completing a task that has eluded policymakers since the days of Teddy Roosevelt. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars to crush the effort, and they very nearly succeeded.

And when they came up short, they spent another $108 million to convince the public, with still more deceptions, to continue to disapprove of the effort they’d already been told not to like.

Ask Americans if they like the law, they’ll say no. Ask Americans if they like the provisions in the law, they’ll say yes. Why is that? Because some powerful folks — some motivated by greed, others by petty partisanship — have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make the case that the law is somehow a bad thing. If they didn’t, the law not only would be more widely appreciated, but Democrats would very likely be positioned to have a much better midterm cycle.

Voters’ attitudes aren’t exactly for sale, but you can rent a lot of ill will for $108 million.