Syndicated writer echoes the theme that Democrats should “stop running from Obamacare.”
Syndicated commentator Froma Harrop last week echoed my earlier call for Democrats to “stop running from Obamacare.” She noted that “Mend it, don’t end it is hardly a rousing battle cry.” Subsequently, the President, in announcing that enrollment surpassed The Congressional Budget Office’s pre-startup 7 million sign-up goal, defended Obamacare, saying: “Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked…There are still no death panels. Armageddon has not arrived. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans, and in the coming years it will help millions more.”
This is a succinct and strong statement, lacking only folksy examples of people that have benefited from the Health Care Act so far. Yet, this theme has not been repeated by him, nor served as ‘talking points’ for Congressional Democrats. Those standing for re-election have continued to run from Obamacare as if it was a leper in biblical times. Off year elections are notoriously difficult for the party in the White House. Polls show that support for Obamacare has dwindled from a small majority favoring it, immediately following enactment, to today’s majority opposed. And, the President’s overall approval rating has sunk to new lows.
Four facts lend themselves to suggest a strategy for the coming campaign: First, record numbers of voters now identify themselves as Independents, and Second, Independents are much less likely to strongly oppose Obamacare than Republicans. Which is not to say that they endorse it. They don’t. Gallup recently found that Independents were 5 times more likely to disapprove of the Healthcare law than Democrats. But Republicans are 17 times more likely. Third, Conservatives were 6 times less likely to approve Obamacare than Liberals. But Moderates were only 2 times as likely. Considering that a sizable portion of the rise in those identifying themselves as Independents came from former Moderate Republicans gives the Democrats a clear group, moderate Independents, to target. Fourth, seniors have, over a twenty year period increasingly aligned themselves with the Republican Party. In 1992 seniors identified themselves as Democrats or leaning Democratic 53% of the time and, as Republican or leaning Republican 39% of the time. Last year, 48% of seniors identified themselves as Republican or leaning Republican. They identified themselves as Democratic or leaning Democratic 45% of the time.
Whites, incidentally, are four times as likely as nonwhites to approve Healthcare Law. Nonwhites tend to turn out for elections at a much lower rate than white voters do. This tendency is exacerbated in off-year elections. Clearly the traditional Democratic electoral strategy of “getting out the vote” campaigns among nonwhites is even more crucial this time.
All of these facts combined suggest an electoral strategy for the Democrats: Get out the vote among minority voters and address the fears of Moderate Independents. Accomplish this with a forceful reply addressing their biggest fear–losing their existing health plan or some of their benefits.
Stressing the extremist nature of the views of the strongly Conservative element of the Republican party is important. This should, additionally, help erode the narrow margin that the Republicans have with America’s moderate seniors who now consider themselves Independent. These messages must be repeated, strongly and often, not just during the occasional Presidential speech or Liberal Democrat interview. Obamacare has many benefits that will improve healthcare coverage for most Americans. These have to be spelled out to the voters, while allaying their fears. The challenge from those who attack it must be met head on or their mis-facts will become real facts in the minds of the swing voters. Running from the issue, and merely talking of vague fixes, is a sure prescription for defeat in November.