Why Everyone’s Yelling About Healthcare.Gov

Before another day of reading and writing about this or that expression of outrage over the problems with healthcare.gov, it’s worth reminding ourselves why there is this level of hysteria over it. You have to add together:

1) Conservatives who have just had a humiliating experience doing wildly unpopular things as part of an over-the-top effort to prevent this law from being implemented. A shift in focus to the Obamacare enrollment “disaster” not only changes the immediate discussion but retroactively makes the GOP’s shutdown/default “disaster” seem marginally more justifiable. It also provides an opportunity to demonize and quite possibly destroy Kathleen Sebelius, already one of America’s two or three top devil-figures to many conservative activists because of her role in the contraception coverage mandate.

2) Liberals who are tired of having to defend what they consider corporate-whorish compromises in progressive initiatives, such as the central presence of private health insurance companies in the public-option-less Obamacare exchanges, and who want it understood a single-payer system wouldn’t have these problems. Some even hope, of course, that Obamacare crashes and that progressives will finally pursue single-payer as they should have all along.

3) Another group of Democratic observers who always though Obama should have focused on the economy rather than health reform, and still want him to cave on delaying its implementation to get the whole subject off the table through 2014.

4) Reporters and pundits who have no idea what’s actually wrong with healthcare.gov, but want to get to the bottom of it, whatever “it” is, while perhaps taking techies–particularly Obama’s techies, who received heavy credit for his re-election–down a few pegs.

5) Snail’s-eye-view observers from every perspective who are looking at this as a consumer ombudsman story instead of as a big but temporary stumbling block in a major historic reform effort aimed at given tens of millions of people health coverage.

Add all that up and yeah, you’ve got a noisy firestorm that won’t get better any time soon–and that’s even before Darrell Issa fully sinks his teeth into the subject. So expect to wade through many crashing waves of misinformation and hype and misplaced passion before learning anything constructive in this environment.

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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.