While Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare continue, it is evident that they are failing more spectacularly than most people assumed they would immediately after the election. There has been a lot of chatter about why that is the case. It includes talk about how Trump hasn’t actually outlined an alternative and has given very mixed signals about what the administration thinks should be done. Similarly, Republican leadership has been put under the microscope for their approach. It has even been suggested that if the GOP had elected a more moderate president, they would have been successful in their attempts to repeal Obamacare.
All of that is typical punditry, which zeros in on politicians and dismisses the role played by the public. The New York Times captured what is probably the more significant reason for this failure in an article titled, “These Americans Hated the Health Law. Until the Idea of Repeal Sank In.” They traveled to Bucks County, Pennsylvania—a perennial swing district outside Philadelphia—to talk to voters about health care and found what we have been seeing nationally.
When President Trump was elected, his party’s long-cherished goal of dismantling the Affordable Care Act seemed all but assured. But eight months later, Republicans seem to have done what the Democrats who passed the law never could: make it popular among a majority of Americans.
Support for the Affordable Care Act has risen since the election — in some polls, sharply — with more people now viewing the law favorably than unfavorably. Voters have besieged their representatives with emotional telephone calls and rallies, urging them not to repeal, one big reason Republicans have had surprising trouble in fulfilling their promise despite controlling both Congress and the White House…
The shift in mood also reflects a strong increase in support for Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor that the law expanded to cover far more people, and which faces the deepest cuts in its 52-year history under the Republican plans.
One of the biggest problems with our current political culture is that it is primarily driven by negativity. When Obamacare initially passed, politicians, pundits and campaign operatives constantly railed against it and successfully enraged the tea partiers with their lies. Meanwhile, Democrats became reluctant to give it their full-throated support. In the midst of all that, approval of the law languished.
But all of the sudden when Republicans had control of both Congress and the presidency, making it possible for them to actually repeal Obamacare, the truth emerged…the law was working to make health insurance accessible for millions of Americans and protecting them from the worst abuses of the insurance industry. In other words, it took a negative reaction to the Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare to drive up support.
In a perfect world, we might find ways to transform our politics and make a discussion of solutions more attractive that the energy fueled by anger and negativity. The current situation plays right into the Republican’s ideology of seeing government as the problem rather than part of the solution. But in the meantime, Democrats should notice this pattern and avoid becoming so reactive to the negativity, which often feeds the Republican narrative.