Everything’s Obama’s Fault

Josh Marshall has a really classic story today, plucked from the Charlotte Observer, about a self-employed handyman from South Carolina named Luis Lang who is falling between the cracks of our semi-reformed health care system. Here’s his summary:

Lang broke the law by refusing to get health insurance coverage because he prided himself on being able to pay his bills out of pocket. But he got sick and actually had too little savings to cover even relatively small health care bills. By now open enrollment has closed. But he figured he’d be able to buy in if he got in a jam or wait till he got sick to buy coverage. Luckily the ACA’s Medicaid expansion covers him regardless. But the state of South Carolina refused to accept Medicaid expansion even though the federal government would pay for it. Lang is left in precisely the situation that would exist if the ACA had never been passed. So he blames Obama.

To be more specific, from the Observer‘s account:

He and his wife blame President Obama and Congressional Democrats for passing a complex and flawed bill.

“(My husband) should be at the front of the line because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues,” Mary Lang said last week. “We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.”

One other detail: Lang is a Republican.

Now it’s obvious it was Republican-run South Carolina’s action that placed Lang and people like him in what I’ve called the “wingnut gap” where coverage is illogically denied for reasons of pure ideology. But then there’s also the little fact that “Obama and Congressional Democrats” cannot be fairly made responsible for the “complex and flawed” features of the bill that were created by a Supreme Court ruling few anticipated, which upheld the law but gave the states control over the Medicaid expansion.

In any event, the Langs’ placement of blame is no more irrational than the well-established tendency of Americans to blame or credit the condition of the national economy–or to be more precise, their perception of its condition–on the party that happens to control the White House at any given moment. The fact that they (or at least he) is a Republican makes his casting of blame even more likely; he’s been told a million times, after all, that Obamacare takes health insurance away from hard-working people like him (in his particular case, he never had it, but that’s a detail).

We’ve all got it in the back of our minds that the longer people are exposed to the reality of the Affordable Care Act, the sooner the misconceptions about it will fade. But Lang’s case shows the exceptional power of myths reinforced by partisanship and ideology.

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.