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October 02, 2013 9:11 AM Hell on Earth For Conservatives

By Ed Kilgore

The juxtaposition of manufactured crises over appropriations and the debt limit wasn’t the only story yesterday, of course: there’s the juxtaposition of both manufactured crises with the real-life beginning of the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act. Ezra Klein sums it up nicely:

The top story all day was that Republicans had shut down the federal government because President Obama wouldn’t defund or delay the Affordable Care Act. The other major story was that the government’s servers were crashing because so many people were trying to see if they could get insurance through Obamacare.
So on the one hand, Washington was shut down because Republicans don’t want Obamacare. On the other hand, Obamacare was nearly shut down because so many Americans wanted Obamacare….
It was strange and slightly perverse to watch Obamacare open and be flooded with people desperate to sign up for health insurance even as the government closed because Republicans wanted the law ripped out, or at least delayed. In some quarters, Republicans mocked Obamacare’s technical problems, but the jokes were wan: Overwhelming demand for the law is not a boon to the GOP’s position.
This is, of course, precisely what Republicans were scared of: That a law they loathe would end up being enthusiastically embraced by millions of Americans — and thus proving permanent. It’s Obamacare’s possible success, not its promised failures, that unnerve the GOP.

I think it’s more complicated than that. When conservatives look at people struggling to access health insurance via the ACA’s exchanges, what do they see? Hard-pressed citizens victimized by incompetent bureaucracy? Victims of socialist tyranny being herded into that terrible collectivist device called “insurance”? Or “takers” and “looters” stealing from virtuous job- and wealth-creators? It’s difficult to say, and thus difficult for Republicans to get their messaging together about why, exactly, it’s worth a possible debt default in order to throw sand in the gears of Obamacare.

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.

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