John Conyers Loves Obamacare. Why Do Some of His Fellow Liberals Hate the President Who Made it Happen?

Representative Conyers supports single payer health care, but has embraced “Obamacare” as a major triumph for the President and his party. He is right to do so. A massive expansion of access to health care has been the dream of progressives for decades, and after 40 years and many failed efforts it has now come to pass.

Harold Pollack tells me that the Affordable Care Act is the best domestic AIDS health policy in the history of the United States. I know myself what Jeffrey Buck has just documented: It’s also the best domestic drug and alcohol health policy in the history of the United States. In these and countless other ways it will literally prove life-saving to hundreds of thousands of people who live in poverty and near-poverty.

Ted Kennedy couldn’t do it; it was the greatest regret of his political career. Jimmy Carter couldn’t do it. Bill Clinton came into office with both Houses of Congress in his party’s hands yet almost ruined his presidency trying to do it. President Barack Hussein Obama did it.

Yet a persistent minority of putative progressives speak of holding their nose and voting for Obama against Rick Perry, or call the President a failure, a traitor to liberalism, an icy technocrat, a heartless plutocrat, more conservative than Barry Goldwater, I could go on but I won’t.

My condemnation of such people generated a strong reaction, both positive and negative. The only clarification I would make about what I initially said in case it wasn’t clear is that reasoned criticism of the President is everyone’s right and everyone’s duty, including mine. But I have lost patience and very evidently my temper with those sanctimonious ingrates of the Left who denigrate as a turncoat the President who took an extraordinary political risk to deliver for progressives and for the most vulnerable citizens in this country.

It may sound like what I am saying is that the Affordable Care Act is such a historic triumph for American progressives that a liberal would have to be deluded to direct any of the aforementioned slanders at President Obama.

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.

I use the word “deluded” advisedly: These individuals believe things that are objectively untrue. If someone thinks universal health care would have passed easily if not for the President’s bumbling (or corruption by industry), then that person must think he is living in France 30 years ago rather than in the United States today. If someone thinks President Obama should have won every single political battle in which he has engaged, then that person is confusing the powers of a U.S. President with those of a king. And if someone thinks that somewhere out there is a politician who would never make a mistake as president, then that person is deluded about human nature.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.