Congressional elections may depend not on how far the Democrats distance themselves from Obamacare but how well they embrace it.
Obama and the Democrats are wed to Obamacare firmly in the minds of the electorate. Because of that, success in the coming House and Senate elections may well depend not on how far Democrats can distance themselves from Obamacare, but on how well they embrace the legislation and are able to swing the public over to a positive orientation towards it. This is not as difficult as it might seem given all the negative publicity about Obamacare.
First of all, Republicans are still the group with the least support for Obamacare. This is to be expected. But even with their solid disapproval, a favorable overall response to it is within reach. Secondly, while Republicans are unlikely to be swayed by anything the Democrats do, the key finding of recent polls indicates that between forty and forty five percent of those interviewed now identify themselves with neither party but instead as independents. This is both unheard of in the modern era and yet unsurprising given the exceptionally low grades the public has given to Congress and their blame of both parties–although Republicans score lower than Democrats in these same polls. Keep in mind that these poll results are after a nearly non-stop barrage of attacks on Obamacare by Republicans who appear unified in their vocal opposition to it. Democrats, on the other hand, including, and perhaps especially the President himself, have been stingy and sporadic in their defense of The Affordable Health Care Act, with some running away from any discussion of it at all. On the positive side, Independents are likely less intransigent than Republicans. What is needed to sway public opinion back to a majority support (which the polls indicated it had immediately following enactment), is a unified Democratic response embracing the Obamacare and offering repeatedly specific examples of its helping Americans with an expectation that it will do so for the rest of us once it’s fully up and running. Assuaging the fears of many that they will be worse off with Obamacare than before is an essential part of the equation.
One difficulty in calming the fears of many Americans about Obamacare is the complexity of the Act itself. I’ve examined the legislation perhaps more than most and yet I have difficulty answering many of the questions I’ve had thrown at me by ordinary people concerned about their personal costs, whether they’ll have any loss of benefits, what eligibility category they will be placed into, and even what benefits they can expect. It is up to the Democratic Party to come up with talking points that address these concerns, explained in a simple way. If there are cracks in the legislation that could potentially hurt some Americans, Democrats should propose legislative patches to close those cracks.
The lead in setting the tone for the Democratic response is on the shoulders of the President himself. He has given support to the Act now associated with his Presidency more than any other, but he has been general and inconsistent in responding to the solid front of criticism by Republicans. He needs to give specific examples of it helping Americans, and do so on a non-stop basis, utilizing ‘The Bully Pulpit’ to its fullest extent. He has by and large failed to do so and his own popularity ratings have declined significantly. The President must lead on this. A strategy of just waiting for implementation to produce positive reactions will not work. The registration process mess and accompanying postponement of compliance dates for many, insure that this will not happen in time for this Fall’s elections. It’s time for the President to get out in front of the public relations curve on this issue. Failing to do this proactively by both him and Party officials and candidates, could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this coming Fall.
Martin, The Pragmatic Liberal writing on pragmaticliberalism.com