Abolish Obamacare! (Just Don’t Touch My ACA Policy)

Further proof that Americans are immune to logic. Jon Chait at NYMag on “How Democrats and Republicans Learned to Agree on Obamacare”:

The policy debate around health care is as intractable as ever. But, unnoticed amidst the partisan spin in the wake of the Florida congressional special election, the two parties are converging about the politics of health care. For much of the last four years, Democrats believed Obamacare would help them, and Republicans believed it would pose a fatal liability. Now they both believe the same thing. Democrats and Republicans alike grasp that Republicans have won the public relations war over Obamacare, and [Republicans] have lost the public relations war over repealing Obamacare.

A new Bloomberg poll finds that 51 percent of Americans would keep the Affordable Care Act in place with “small modifications,” against 34 percent who favor repeal, and 13 percent who would make no changes at all…

The public likes keeping the parts of Obamacare where they get money, and opposes the parts where they pay money. In other words, Obamacare, politically, is becoming like just about every other government program.

Ergo, John Cassidy’s assertion, in the New Yorker, that “It’s Time for Democrats to Embrace Obamacare”:

Here’s a heretical idea. Rather than parsing the individual elements of the law, and trying to persuade voters on an à la carte basis, what about raising the stakes and defending the reform in its entirety as a historic effort to provide affordable health-care coverage to tens of millions of hard-working Americans who otherwise couldn’t afford it? Instead of shying away from the populist and redistributionist essence of the reform, which the White House and many Democrats in Congress have been doing since the start, it’s time to embrace it.

What would that mean? It would involve reaching out to the Democratic Party’s core voters—lower-income people, minorities, highly educated liberals—and portraying Obamacare as the fulfillment of the great human-rights project that began in the nineteen-thirties, under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was expanded during the nineteen-sixties, under Lyndon Johnson. That message wouldn’t merely be more honest; it would be more effective in getting Democratic voters to turn out in November, which is essential if the Party isn’t to suffer a repeat of 2010… Despite the widespread belief that voters don’t like big government, G.O.P. candidates know, to their cost, that Social Security and Medicare are sacrosanct. Over time, universal health coverage will probably come to be seen in the same way. But it might not happen unless the architects of Obamacare stand up for it more vigorously…

About the only Democrat I’ve heard pressing this argument is Katherine Sebelius, the embattled Secretary of Health and Human Services. Many other Democrats, although well aware of the messaging problem, remain wary of being tagged as liberals and redistributionists.

In some districts, where Democratic candidates are busy wooing independents or Republicans, this is understandable. But in many races—and this is something that David Axelrod, President Obama’s former campaign strategist, acknowledged in his Florida postmortem—the key to victory is turning out the Party’s core voters. What better way to do it than by turning Obamacare into a great progressive cause, rather than something to avoid or be embarrassed about.

59 replies
  1. 1
    Mnemosyne says:

    About the only Democrat I’ve heard pressing this argument is Katherine Sebelius, the embattled Secretary of Health and Human Services. (emphasis mine)

    If John Cassidy wants to be taken seriously on healthcare policy, he should probably learn the correct names of the players. Whatever happened to the supposedly legendary New Yorker fact checkers?

    And the Democrats should have embraced Obamacare before the 2010 midterms instead of trying to run away from it, but I repeat myself.

  2. 2
    Redshift says:

    In a broader sense, the Democratic Party would be better off we banned from politics any campaign strategist in a special election who does *not* make it all about turning out the base. Who do they think votes in them? I’m shocked at the number of losing or squeaker special elections where the candidate toned down their Democratic message to “appeal to independents” or some such.

    We had that in one of the two Virginia State Senate special elections, where control of the Senate was at stake. In the supposedly more Democratic district (unless I’m mistaken) the candidate talked up bipartisanship, and won by less than twenty votes after a recount. In the less Democratic district, the Dem tan a partisan turnout campaign, and won in a walk.

  3. 3
    jl says:

    Cassidy’s advice is not original or heretical; it’s just contrary to a recent loser fashion adopted by loser Democrats.

    ” Now, we can always rely on the Republicans to help us in an election year, but we can’t count on them to do the whole job for us. We have got to go out and do some of it ourselves, if we expect to win.

    The first rule in my book is that we have to stick by the liberal principles of the Democratic Party. We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don’t need to try it.

    The record the Democratic Party has made in the last 20 years is the greatest political asset any party ever had in the history of the world. We would be foolish to throw it away. There is nothing our enemies would like better and nothing that would do more to help them win an election.

    I’ve seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn’t believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.

    But when a Democratic candidate goes out and explains what the New Deal and fair Deal really are–when he stands up like a man and puts the issues before the people–then Democrats can win, even in places where they have never won before. It has been proven time and again.

    We are getting a lot of suggestions to the effect that we ought to water down our platform and abandon parts of our program. These, my friends, are Trojan horse suggestions. I have been in politics for over 30 years, and I know what I am talking about, and I believe I know something about the business. One thing I am sure of: never, never throw away a winning program. This is so elementary that I suspect the people handing out this advice are not really well-wishers of the Democratic Party.

    More than that, I don’t believe they have the best interests of the American people at heart. There is something more important involved in our program than simply the success of a political party. ”

    Harry Truman
    Address at the National Convention Banquet of the Americans for Democratic Action

  4. 4
    ruemara says:

    @Redshift: Exactly.

  5. 5
    trollhattan says:

    Am newly become aware of NC Senator Richard Burr, who sports a punchable and smug smirk the likes of which I’ve not seen since Dubya. Anyway, a nice Canadian doctor lady and Bernie Sanders mopped the floor with Burr in a totally nice way, about the standard myths of infinite Canadian lines for doctor-visitin’ and how America’s health care is always fvck yeah best.


  6. 6
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @jl: Cassidy said what now?

  7. 7
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Same problem, different country.

  8. 8
    jl says:

    Also, some ‘straight talk’ about GOP would be helpful too. In case the truth sounds to harsh in this genteel civil age, just explain that you are paraphrasing Truman:

    ‘ He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in. ‘

    Probably an easy guess who Truman was talking about.

  9. 9
    jl says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: My interpretation is that Cassidy said that it sounded heretical to campaign on the ACA as a progressive liberal policy. I think it is not heretical at all, but a good idea and goes back to good Democratic political practice.

  10. 10
    Ian says:


  11. 11
    Elizabelle says:


    I’m bored with all the “Democrats are doomed, doomed we tell you” stuff.

    Presidents Hillary Clinton and John McCain bore me too. Cuz the political analysts always call it right.

  12. 12
    raven says:

    Wakey wakey

  13. 13
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @raven: yeah, I’ve been wondering where everyone went for the past couple of hours.

  14. 14
    raven says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Time change got em!

  15. 15
    Elizabelle says:

    Yeah, I always have a hard time with the switch to DST. Nefarious plot.

    Raven: pick up a book. Watch a video. Anything but Morning Joe.

    They’re fixing their coffee and cataloguing their lies as we speak.

  16. 16
    NotMax says:


    Another day, another dime.

    Discovered am out of green food coloring for making St. Patrick’s Day martinis. Quelle horreur.

  17. 17
    raven says:

    @Elizabelle: I read a bit in the morning before MJ and our dog walk to the bakery. It’s below freezing again but we’ll most likely go anyway.

  18. 18
    Elizabelle says:


    Maybe the olive will count for something.

  19. 19
    raven says:

    @NotMax: Another advantage of not drinking, I don’t have to find the dye!

  20. 20
    Keith G says:

    For a very informative discussion about the politics of this listen to this week’s Slate Political Gabfest. You can find it now at the iTunes store (free podcast) or at Slate’s Podcasts page – where it will be made available a bit later today.

    They also have a great summary of the Senate/CIA conflict and a review of the President on Between Two Ferns.


  21. 21
  22. 22
    Elizabelle says:


    Glad you’re going to the bakery. It’s quite cold here too.

    I’m reading Gail Collins’ column on Paul Ryan’s crusade against school lunches. A few days old, but worth a read if you have not already. First they came for the school lunches …

    Lunch on the Barricades

  23. 23
    geg6 says:

    Up most of the night with poor Otis, who has diarrhea and has been vomiting the entire time. I have no idea what is wrong. He’s too disabled to go outside by himself, so he couldn’t have eaten anything outside. And there is nothing inside that he could have gotten to that would make him sick. I’m at my wit’s end.

    I’m going into work a half day and taking the other half off to come home and care for him. I’m just hoping against hope that he doesn’t spew poop and vomit all over the house in the meantime.

  24. 24
    Elizabelle says:


    Hadn’t read that. Never heard of Buddha Bar; now know why. Thanks.

    “It’s comical that they spent millions of dollars and failed almost immediately.”

    And the Buddha?

    “The Buddha will —” Gifford says, trailing off, caught in its golden gaze.

    “Be in some drug dealer’s place eventually,” says the business partner.

    “I say put it on the Key Bridge,” Gifford says.

    “Welcome to D.C.”

    “Where opu­lence is everything.”

    There do seem to be windows behind said Buddha.

  25. 25
  26. 26
  27. 27
    NotMax says:


    Article says the place opened in 2010.

    Shouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to track down someone who knows how they got it in.

  28. 28
    raven says:

    @NotMax: Vafeades’s Twilight Express Trucking! Boogie Boogie!

  29. 29
    raven says:

    @Elizabelle: Maybe the Taliban can figure it out?

  30. 30
    Elizabelle says:

    @geg6: I hope Otis feels better.

    @raven: Your dogs are goal oriented.

    And you’re right. Where is the Taliban when you need a Buddha taken out?

  31. 31
  32. 32

    Instead of shying away from the populist and redistributionist essence of the reform, which the White House and many Democrats in Congress have been doing since the start

    Has this guy ever listened to an Obama speech? All the bits about Americans having an obligation to take care of each other, and compassion, that stuff? Hell, the deficit speech was 30 seconds of ‘This needs to get under control’ and then shifted to ‘Social services are awesome and morally right, so let’s raise taxes on the rich.’

    Maybe Obama really is an empty chair. Nobody on either side seems to listen to him. They just make up what they’re sure he would have said.

  33. 33
  34. 34
    NotMax says:

    raven did you happen to see the giant Buddha statue in Lahaina while you were here?

    The pagoda/mission is right on the beach. The backdrop for the statue is the West Maui mountains in the disatance.

  35. 35
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    EVERYTIME I hear Harold Ford on MJ, I’m actually happy that he lost his Senate bid. He would have been worse than Joe Lieberman.

  36. 36
    raven says:

    @NotMax: I wanted to but we left on Fuzz’s boat at 10pm and when we got back 12 hrs later I was delirious. We did watch sunrise at the beach next to the Maui Zendo. And the Zen Center in Haiku too!

  37. 37
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Democrats are strange. They voted for the ACA and are now acting as if it’s an anchor around their ankles. They need to buck up and champion the law, warts and all. I’m sick and tired of hearing how it’s all President Obama’s responsibility to sell the ACA to the American public. Why can’t Democratic politicians, policy wonks, etc., do the leg work? President Obama cannot do every dang thing.

  38. 38
    kindness says:

    Chait’s pronouncement is wrong. Not the Republican part but the Democratic part. But oh well, such is life in the Village. Surprised in that he isn’t typically the Village but again, oh well.

    They set the meme and they get pissed when we don’t follow it. Oh well.

  39. 39
    WereBear says:

    @jl: SO true. I’ve got chills.

    A “Proud to be a Democrat” campaign, with people from all walks of life!

    Me and mine would sign up for that.

  40. 40
    Kay says:

    It’s a bigger problem than not selling the health care law.

    The Opportunity Gap is a horrible message. No one knows what it means and Republicans are saying the same thing, often the same words.

    I don’t know what Democrats in federal races are running on. The only thing I can come up with is the Earned Income Tax Credit, and I hate to tell them, but no one is coming out to vote based on their enthusiasm for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Also, since Jon Chait is a huge fan of The Opportunity Gap as a theme (along with David Brooks and every other millionaire pundit) I don’t know that he’s qualified to weigh in. It sounds like they’re blaming working class and middle class people for income inequality. It sounds like they’re lecturing them, or maybe offering them advice? No one ever wants advice.

    My preference would be they take all the money they’re going to plow into selling the Four Step Bullet-Pointed Plan to Close The Opportunity Gap and put it in governor’s races in MI, OH, PA, FL and WI, but that will never happen.

  41. 41
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @WereBear: I have a business card around here somewhere that say’s something like,

    “Can’t we all just get along? I’ll hug your (pic of GOP elephant) and you can kiss my (pic of Democratic ass).”

  42. 42
    Baud says:

    portraying Obamacare as the fulfillment of the great human-rights project that began in the nineteen-thirties, under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was expanded during the nineteen-sixties, under Lyndon Johnson

    I’m now in the mood to look at the Daily Kos diary archives for 2009-10.

  43. 43
    beth says:

    Didn’t I see Charlie Crist coming out forcefully for Obamacare recently? It would figure that an ex-Republican would be able to enthusiastically push for a program he believes in. Maybe it’s some super secret training they give them.

  44. 44
    Baud says:


    Maybe Obama really is an empty chair. Nobody on either side seems to listen to him. They just make up what they’re sure he would have said.

    Obama became an icon as soon as he was elected. Like all icons, people saw in him what their inner souls wanted to see.

  45. 45
    Kay says:

    The capacity for risk is tied to economic security. People aren’t economically secure. They’re scared to death.

    Democrats offering them what amounts to earnest advice on “opportunity” is a theme created and promoted by well-off people that is only appealing TO well-off people.

    They’re afraid. That’s rational. They just lived through the worst economic crash of their lives. They don’t want a 4 step plan to climb the ladder of opportunity, they don’t want advice. They want an advocate. They want someone to be on their side.

  46. 46
    Baud says:


    I think it’s race-based. Most whites vote Republican and many are full-on wingnuts. So Republicans have learned to speak in dominant language while white Democrats speak meekly. Non-white Democrats and white Democrats from areas where whites are more solidly Democrats tend to be more forceful. Obviously, there are exceptions.

  47. 47
    Baud says:


    Plus, since republicans tend to be grifters, they know better how to sell things to people.

  48. 48
    gene108 says:

    Democratic politicians, at a very basic level, are politicians, who once having a secure enough position in government begin to do what politicians do and wonder how to maximize the money they can make out of their office.

    Not all Democrats do this, but enough that you are never going to convince people to trust government like they did with the New Deal or wanted to do with Johnson’s Great Society. Even with strongly blue states, you end up with enough corruption to never restore people’s faith that government is the solution.

    The “Big Dig” in Boston, for example, is the sort of thing that calls into question the competence of government run and sort of undermines the whole proposition liberals want to sell that government run by Democrats will be above “politics as usual”.


    I get tired of people saying Democratic politicians need to push a message and Republicans are the “awesome sauce” at standing up for their values.

    Republican politicians do very little heavy lifting to drive their message. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, David Brooks, George Will, etc. do the heavy lifting. They push right-wing talking points into the public’s view and keep driving it. The Republican politicians, at most, just have to say “hey look people are saying Social Security is not sustainable”, therefore as a responsible politician I want to get ahead of the issue before the problem blows up.

    As much as many of us remember the constant drum beat of people, who opposed the Iraq War “hating America”, no Republican politician, especially folks in the Bush, Jr. Admin, ever said this. The right-wing media pushed this to rile up the base.

    For that matter no one in the Bush Admin ever made the explicit statement Saddam had anything to do with 9/11/01. There were carefully worded juxtaposition of sentences that went from “al-Qaeda is bad. Saddam has WMD’s, which is also bad.” The people really pushing this notion were right-wing media hacks.

    Politicians are rarely advocates for anything beyond their record.

    The problem Democrats have is they do not have the comparable media apparatus the right-wing has to do the heave message-lifting for them.

    Plus the media seems wired for Republican talking points, which does not help the message-lifting Democrats have to do.


    In terms of messaging, there’s one constant theme that seems to transcend generations that goes unquestioned: When a Democrat is in the White House, America’s security is threatened and the military weakened.

    I saw this during the Clinton Presidency and I’m seeing this again in the run-up to the 2014 mid-terms. In the 2000 election, one of Bush, Jr.’s major themes was to restore the military readiness of the U.S. military.

    Every time a Republican is talking about Ukraine or Syria, the implicit theme is Obama has made us weak and emboldened our enemies to attack us.

    The Republicans had to dial this down in 2006 and 2008, because “memories” of the clusterfuck that was the Iraq War were still fresh in people’s minds.

    Otherwise it seems the media gives Republicans carte-blanche license to keep beating this same theme of a Democratic President makes us weak and vulnerable with impunity.

  49. 49
    Baud says:


    Good comment.

  50. 50
    rikyrah says:

    KSK(africa) @lawalazu
    REPEAT after me: #Obamacare is the best thing to happen to Americans since Medicare&Social Security. Dems, here is your 2014 Msg. Now, go!

    7:17 PM – 13 Mar 2014

  51. 51
    C.V. Danes says:

    Rather than parsing the individual elements of the law, and trying to persuade voters on an à la carte basis, what about raising the stakes and defending the reform in its entirety as a historic effort to provide affordable health-care coverage to tens of millions of hard-working Americans who otherwise couldn’t afford it?

    Because when it comes down to it, the only people who really care about the uninsured (other than policy wonks) are the uninsured. Most everyone else may play lip service to the uninsured, but when it comes to cost, they would rather pay less for their own insurance and let the uninsured deal with their own problems.

    This is not to say that people are uncaring. What I am saying is that most people have a tough time making ends meet on a day-to-day basis, and the issues with health insurance fall under the “I’ll never get sick until I do, so I’ll worry about it then” category. If we hadn’t just spent the last thirty years sacrificing job security and pay to the god of investor returns, then people might have some more faith and wiggle room in their budgets to care more about the uninsured. But they don’t

    There are a lot more people who are insured (and vote) than those who are uninsured. If you want to win their hearts and minds, then focus on how their lives are being improved by the ACA. Getting insurance for millions of previously uninsured people should be sold as a side benefit, not the main purpose of the program.

  52. 52
    DanF says:

    “51 percent of Americans would keep the Affordable Care Act in place with “small modifications,” […] and 13 percent who would make no changes at all” … Doesn’t that mean 64% of Americans are pretty much OK with ACA? So … How is that Democrats lost the PR war? From the beginning we’ve been saying this law was a starting point. Better than what we had, but not what we want to end up with.

  53. 53
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @DanF: They’re saying Americans want to keep the ACA, but the ACA makes them less likely to vote for Democrats.

    Indeed, it’s probably the case that the more Republicans get on board with keeping the ACA, the more likely they are to vote Republican. Democrats get the blame for everything that’s wrong with it, and Republicans aren’t perceived as potentially removing the benefits. That’s how it basically worked out with the New Deal and Great Society, after all. It was decades before the Republicans were actually able to rip out their hearts, and they won big in the meantime.

  54. 54
    ralphb says:

    @beth: Charlie Crist can give full throated support to Obamacare because Democratic consultants haven’t beaten all the enthusiasm out of him yet,

  55. 55
    Fair Economist says:


    Didn’t I see Charlie Crist coming out forcefully for Obamacare recently? It would figure that an ex-Republican would be able to enthusiastically push for a program he believes in. Maybe it’s some super secret training they give them.

    Charlie Crist isn’t supporting Obamacare because he “believes” in it, he’s supporting it because he wants to win the election. He knows getting your side out is how you win. I agree he’s doing this because he used to be a Republican and he still remembers how you actually win races.

  56. 56
    Fair Economist says:

    At the very least, Democrats could run on the specific planks of Obamacare:

    “[Republican X] voted to kick young adults off their parent’s policies. 52 times.”

    “[Republican X] voted to let your insurer kick you off your policy when you get sick. 52 times.”

    “[Republican X] voted to allow more Medicare fraud. 52 times.”

    “[Republican X] voted to deny insurance to the working poor. 52 times.”

    “[Republican X] voted to cancel health insurance for millions of entrepreneurs. 52 times.”

    It’s all quite literally true for any Republican in the House, and requires only minor adjustment for any other Republican.

  57. 57
    Betsy says:

    Here’s the main and only fundamental problem with obamacare, as far as it goes. It came along when nobody has any money.

    Nobody under 50 has any money, nobody with a college degree has any money, nobody withut a college degree has any money, nobody with kids has any money. PEOPLE GOT NOMONEY.

    The program of subsidized premiums and mandates for decent policies would work just great, if working people in this country had any money. It would work just great, if the last 30years hadn’t seen the sacrifice of most of the middle and working class, and if the next30 years weren’t going to see the end of all of it.

    The whole country just can’t insure itself if its GDP is made up of 80% low wage workers, 15% technicals and professionals, and 5% upper class grifters.

    The ACA would have worked in the sixties, through the eighties or nineties, when there was a middle class. But the math going forward from today doesn’t . fucking . add . up.

    It was a great idea to being healthcare to this country, except that it came when most people can’t fucking pay for anything besides rice and fucking beans. And the subsidies don’t change the fact that SOMEONE,SOMEWHERE has to be making a decent living wage in this country.

    And I say that as a huge fan of the ACA.

  58. 58
    stonetools says:

    The Republicans have one unspoken but powerful advantage in the propoganda war over Obamacare: it was proposed by a black man. That’s largely why they call it Obamacare: to make sure their white constituents in the South and Appalachia never forget that fact.
    Calling it Obamacare is a dogwhistle to those whites hinting that Obamacare is a program by a black man meant to benefit blacks and those immediately it provokes opposition from those whites. How to counter that?
    I would say that the Democrats should focus mainly on expanded Medicaid. Now that about 90 per cent of the press attention has been focused on exchanges and wonks have spent a lot of time explaining the ins and outs of exchanges: the website rollout, the advantages and benefits, the need for “young invincibles, etc., etc.
    What’s lost is all this is that expanded Medicaid has rolled out smoothly and has signed up many more people than the exchanges. Also too, it directly benefits white working class people in Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas, and West Virginia, was well in the blue states. Now the Republicans have cleverly and cynically kept it out of many more states, but that in itself creates an issue for Democrats.
    My strategy would be to make Obamacare be mostly about expanded Medicaid. Do an ad blitz featuring mostly( or even entirely) just working class whites from the South and Appalachia. Have them talk about having access to a doctor for the fiorst time, or how their children are getting regular dental checkups for the first time courtesy of the Affordable Care Act. Then have them look in the camera and ask why [insert Republicancandidate] wants to take this away from them (cue menacing music, unflattering photo).
    Heavy handed? Maybe. But frankly , you have to hit folks over the head sometimes for the message to get through. Let the MSM wring their hands about how “one sided” the ads are. Let’s do some smart offense on the ACA.

  59. 59
    Shazza says:

    @Patricia Kayden:

    Hear!Hear! I say that ALL the time!

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