The Obamacare Referendum

Did you know that on November 6, 2012, in conjunction with the national election, the United States also had a referendum on Obamacare that Republicans won? No, I didn’t, either, until Paul Ryan informed me of this, via this Think Progress report:

On Sunday morning, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) stopped by Fox News Sunday to preview his new budget, which will be released in full on Tuesday. As it had the past two years, this year’s version will call for massive cuts to social service programs, including food stamps, job training, Medicaid, and Medicare. Host Chris Wallace challenged Ryan on the viability of his plan, pointing out that he wants to repeal and replace Obamacare, and, “that’s not going to happen.”

Still, Ryan insisted that he and then-running mate Mitt Romney won the election on this issue because they “won the senior vote.”

Now I think we all understand that Ryan is using some shorthand here: many Democrats hoped, and Republicans feared, that Ryan’s budget, by proposing to change Medicare from an entitlement to publicly-provided health insurance into a premium-support system, would make his party vulnerable to losses it could not manage in its old-white-folks electoral base. Instead, by a variety of means (including over two years of insanely mendacious “death-panel” demagoguery about the impact of Obamacare on Medicare, and the systematic “grandfathering” of seniors from Ryan’s proposed Medicare changes), the GOP ticket managed to promote a health care message that nicely meshed with its overall pitch to old white folks that those people along with their atheist hippie allies were threatening to take away everything good virtuous retirees had worked so hard to secure for themselves, including Medicare (which they tend to regard as an earned benefit as opposed to Obamacare’s “welfare”).

I suppose it’s understandable that Ryan would view any success in selling big changes in Medicare to old folks would represent a political ten-strike, even if he’s now having to incorporate into his budget the same Medicare savings he implicitly attacked during the campaign as a token of Obamacare’s ultimate goal of sending seniors off to euthanasia camps. But it’s still bizarre that he’s touting an incumbent president’s re-election victory as a repudiation of his most important legislative accomplishment. It’s enough to give Dick Morris hope he can come back from ridicule and disgrace and claim he was right all along in predicting a big Romney-Ryan win.

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.