If the early signals hold firm and the assigned fixers have indeed gotten a handle on whatever was bedeviling initial rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), how much of a setback does that create for the army of naysayers who were poised to ride an anti-ACA wave all the way to the 2014 midterm elections? Coming right after the GOP-engineered shutdown of the government, the inexcusably amateurish launch of the government’s ACA web site provided the Republican/Tea Party wall of defiance with an escape route from a lambasting they should, even now, not have lived down.
The full-throttle shellacking that these forces organized against the ACA (the pejorative “Obamacare” naturally being the preferred terminology in that sector) even co-opted much of the mainstream media to join in the pile-on of disabling blows heaped on the administration. So respected a news veteran as Bob Schieffer of CBS News dismissed the ACA as a “disaster” and parroted the attackers’ line about “scrapping the whole thing and starting over.” The ACA’s would-be destroyers had the wind at their back for sure.
Should the web site be given a new lease on life and, with it, realization by the bulk of those whose healthcare needs are intended to be addressed by the ACA, that they’re now in a good place, President Obama would have played this plot sequence as statesmanly correct as could be desired. Burned by snafus in the web site’s setup of which he reportedly was not previously made aware, the president proceeded to apologize, take the blame and then place his confidence in someone he thought could repair the damage. If, coming behind such un-panicked response to what would be anybody’s nightmare, relatively smooth running of the site results, the president would have earned his brownie points.
It has not been all aces for the president, as he closes in on five years on the job. There have been some foreign policy calculations that, in hindsight, he may regret he made (we have previously suggested here that being drawn into intervention in Libya could well be one of them) and on the domestic front he, like every one of his predecessors, hasn’t been free of missteps. But, especially in light of the depth of feeling on the other side to frustrate his every move, the president has acquitted himself very well in the role. The Affordable Care Act was an ambitious, well-meaning initiative intended to address the issue of so many in the population being without health insurance, while simultaneously attempting to curtail the resulting drain on government resources caused by so many emergency room visits of the uninsured. Which makes it a non-starter for today’s ideologically driven Republican party. Showing that kind of concern for people isn’t in the Republican style book, because that’s not something government concerns itself with.
So whether or not the other side’s rally cry of a busted ACA web site gets its plug pulled because of the president’s having moved adroitly to engage the problem, Republican/Tea Party demagoguery to bring about the ACA’s demise will not abate. In one of the more preposterous things done in the House of Representatives, Republicans voted almost 50 times to repeal the ACA – votes the caucus knew were going nowhere. (Who is surprised that the current Congress has earned the distinction of least productive session of all time?}
Typically, though, the GOP way would be to see in a temporarily malfunctioning ACA web site a nirvana good for delivering what that colossal waste of time in House repeal votes could not. So pulling out all the stops, blanketing the space every which way with chatter about how dead in the water this thing was, became the order of the day. Not unexpectedly, too, there was no inclination whatsoever to acknowledge that although trouble on the site for persons trying to access it was widespread, an altogether different experience greeted others in states like Kentucky, California and others, primarily where the state opted to use its own insurance exchanges rather than the federal government’s (Kentucky somewhat of an odd twist, being the home of ferociously anti-ACA Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell). The overwhelming concentration and unrelenting emphasis on the negative seemingly was geared toward influencing the media’s unblinking focus on the negative as well.
ACA opposition forces outdid themselves in California, where they stooped to “dirty tricks” levels. Evidently none too pleased that the sign-up flow in the state had gone quite well, folks supposedly affiliated with or acting on behalf of the political opposition set up a phony “sound alike” web site intended to draw potential insurance buyers but which in reality could sell the poor saps zilch. Sadly, some have begun to see the ongoing contention over the ACA (which, lest they forget, is the law of the land) as worthy of that kind of mindless intemperance.
Through it all President Obama has charted a “steady as she goes” course as ship’s captain. The Affordable Care Act, generally referred to as his signature achievement, is a proud one to own. The president’s demeanor of a no-nonsense exterior couched in respect ultimately is perhaps a sober choice, given the daily round of slings and arrows sent his way – a routine in which the Affordable Care Act has emerged as bête noir of the first degree.