|(From National Journal/United Technologies poll)|
I have long felt that the opposition to Obamacare was essentially a partisan affair, with some Democrats and many Independents affected by the GOP anti-ACA disinformation campaign. The above chart, taken from a newly released National Journal/United Technologies poll, points out another fundamental issue that I had not taken seriously enough: the perception of the program as "helping the poor and the uninsured, but not everyone, and (certainly) not me". In other words, Obamacare represents a redistributive program, moving resources from the wealthy and the middle class to the poor. The extent to which this view is held by Democrats, Independents, and key parts of Obama's coalition (millenials, college-educated women, though not minorities) had escaped me, and I am enormously glad to have found this research, giving me more information, and (I believe) a clearer perspective. In short, I think I now see the problem.
America doesn't seem to favor redistribution, as much as it did in the 60s'. This is not only an anti-big Government response. It springs from a feeling of national scarcity, even decline, that we no longer have the abundance, and therefore the policy options that we used to have. What is given to one group of people is not available to others. Competition for resources becomes zero sum: win-lose. If you win, I lose; and vice versa.
Lots of things surely contribute to this attitude: the Conservative resurgence, beginning with Reagan; the Great Financial Crisis, and the apocalyptic cries of the GOP (and many others) that the country is broke, and debt/deficit disaster is just around the corner. I'll actually include the post-9/11 Bush/GOP reaction, telling the American people to be afraid, to be very afraid. We have been living in fear for much of the last 12 years. The GFC just shifted the focus from terrorism to our country's supposed financial fragility.
This is mostly nonsense; but though my training teaches me to notice my perspective - my lenses - and not to assume others look at the world from the same viewpoint, I missed this. I am, quite simply, an abundance thinker. Most others are not. So I missed.
So what is the significance of this? Even with a working website, even with millions enrolled. even with 2015 premium increases turning out to be modest, many Americans will be waiting for the other shoe to drop, revealing what bad thing will happen to me, because the poor and the uninsured are benefitting. Broad acceptance will come slowly. It may take one or two years before people become broadly convinced that their world won't fall apart, just because the uninsured and the poor now have access to healthcare insurance. I could, therefore, be wrong that Obamacare will be a strong pro-Democratic argument in the 2014 midterms. I'm no longer sure of that, but I still see it as real possibility.
What can Obama and his allies do?
The healthcare cost slowdown is real. And this benefits everyone, giving a strong counter to the current story from the Right that because the poor and the uninsured are gaining, you (Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class) must be losing.
I am convinced the ACA is here to stay. I'm just not sure how quickly folks will appreciate that there is significant benefit for everyone. If the message gets out by summer, there is still a chance for a House turnover.
And maybe the GOP will treat us to another Shutdown! That would help a lot!