Political Animal


April 26, 2013 4:31 PM The Most Immediate Threat To Obamacare

By Ed Kilgore

In a column where the effort to appear “balanced” is a bit closer to real “balance” than has become customary for him, David Brooks examines the short-term future of the Affordable Care Act, apparently after consulting various “experts.” Here’s his bottom line:

[T]he clear majority, including some of the law’s opponents, believe that we’re probably in for a few years of shambolic messiness, during which time everybody will scramble and adjust, and eventually we will settle down to a new normal.
What nobody can predict is how health care chaos will interact with the political system. There’s a good chance that Republicans will be able to use unhappiness with what is already an unpopular law to win back the Senate in 2014. Controlling both houses of Congress, they will be in a good position to alter, though not repeal, the program.

There are two kinda important things Brooks leaves out here. The first is a very common issue with Obamacare critics: translating levels of “unhappiness” with the new system into a straightforward political opportunity for Republicans. As we have learned over and over again, though some of us have clearly forgotten, a sizable chunk of those “unhappy” with Obamacare are people who want a much stronger public role in the health care system—i.e., people not likely to vote Republican over it.

The second is the havoc that can be wreaked by congressional Republicans whether or not they succeed in retaking the Senate in 2014. Like any large piece of complex legislation, the Affordable Care Act had flaws (including one big flaw deliberately inserted into the legislation by reform opponents) that in the normal course of events would be fixed legislatively. That ain’t happening with a Republican Party determined to make the law fail, and controlling both the House and veto power in the Senate by the routine use of the filibuster.

That’s a more immediate problem than “shambolic messiness” or the possibility of a big Republican win in 2014.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on April 26, 2013 4:55 PM:

    If the Republicans win the Senate in 2014, after they're sworn in, people will be asking, "Remind me, what was a filibuster?"

    Bobo's formula:
    -Create a strawman argument.
    -Tell where Democrats stand.
    -Tell where Republicans stand.
    -Give some anectodal evidence, from the Heartland.
    -Counter that with the Liberal Elite.
    -"Prove" that the Democrats are wrong.
    -Involve more strawmen, to demonstrate.
    -Sum up with how the Republican, Burkean, and Boboean, path is the right way.


  • biggerbox on April 26, 2013 5:54 PM:

    Brooks, being priveleged to have a good healthcare plan from his employer and, I presume, relative good health, betrays his lack of ubderstanding of our existing situation. We ALREADY have a shambolic mess and people are already unhappy! Obamacare may make it better, but could hardly make it worse.

    My biggest fear is that they improvements won't be delivered fast enough and won't be clearly labelled as 'brought to you by Obamacare', so the GOP will be able to point to any of the existing flaws and blame it on Obamacare. Like Brooks, they'll pretend everything was fine before Obama got involved AND they'll blame him for not doing stuff they themselves blocked him from doing.

  • mb on April 26, 2013 11:17 PM:

    I believe that, given a watchful Secret Service, Obama is likely to live to rue the day he decided to embrace the term
    "Obamacare" and will regret hitching his wagon to a conservative take on healthcare reform. I think it will destroy any hope of real healthcare reform since healthcare reform will, like the assault weapons ban, have been shown not to work. He should have insisted it be called Baucuscare. Or The-Heritage-Foundation-made-this-up-so-don't-blame-me-care.