Talkin’ ObamaCare!

As noted last night, one of the most interesting developments in Charlotte yesterday was the frequent and entirely non-defensive expressions of support for and pride in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. This was probably more predictable than the surprised reactions from pundits would indicate. Yes, ACA doesn’t poll that great, at least as an abstraction. But as we’ve known for a long time, a sizable chunk of those expressing disapproval of the legislation are people who think it should have been much stronger and/or more “public” than it was–i.e., people with zero sympathy for the GOP point-of-view on the law. And more importantly, polls have consistently shown solid majority support for most of ACA’s key provisions, with the exception of the individual mandate. Given the Republican Party’s ironclad decision not to offer any glimpse of what if anything they’d replace ObamaCare with if they succeed in repealing it, Democrats had little to lose and a lot to gain from dramatizing what Americans would lose if the law goes away–including, very crucially, provisions that have already taken effect.

The potential power of this way of discussing ObamaCare was pretty clearly shown yesterday by Stacy Lihn’s speech about the lifetime cap on insurance payments that ACA outlawed, and that if reimposed could rob her of the ability to secure for her daughter life-saving heart surgery. The speech not only provided a very tangible example of the consequences of the election, but also a tart response to Mitt Romney’s claim that 2008 Obama supporters could point to no moment after his election that their happiness with the president reached the levels of the last campaign. While it’s true Obama is going to have to lay out a proactive second-term agenda tomorrow night, what we’ve heard so far indicates he will not fail to mention full implementation of ACA as a crucial part of that agenda that will almost certainly fall by the wayside if Romney wins.

Now if it were totally up to me, Democrats would be broadening their line of attack on health care beyond ObamaCare and beyond the routine battles over Medicare and talk about the full conservative vision (which I’ve dubbed “repeal and reverse”) for the health care system, including the block-granting of Medicaid, the erosion of employer-based insurance, and such potential nightmares as interstate insurance sales that will destroy state regulation of private insurers. Maybe we’ll hear some of that before the Convention ends. But a robust defense of ObamaCare is a good start on both a positive and negative message that goes beyond endless arguments over who would do what to Medicare.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.