The worm has turned. Republicans have figured out that running around simply screaming that America needs to "Repeal Obamacare!" isn't going to work this fall. As Bobby Jindal's recent foray into the wonderful world of health care reform proposals indicates, they know for sure it won't work in 2016.
But if you don't want to believe Jindal, and want actual data, we've got that on our side too. Earlier this week, support for Obamacare reached the highest level achieved in any of the 20 polls done by ABC/Washington Post. With 49 percent supporting and 48 percent opposed, this is a serious turnaround from ABC/WaPo's numbers from last November (after the botched rollout of healthcare.gov) that showed 40 percent supporting and 57 percent opposed.
A second poll this past week, this one from NPR but conducted jointly by a Democratic (Stan Greenberg) and Republican (Whit Ayres) pollster, showed 47 percent supporting and 51 percent opposing Obamacare, but also found that seven percent of likely voters who oppose it do so because it doesn't go far enough. Other previous polls have found an even higher percentage expressing opposition for this reason. Greenberg reminds us that virtually all of these people wanted a more liberal version of health care reform, such as the public option or single payer. Thus, 54 percent of voters in last week's NPR poll want either Obamacare or something more liberal, and only 44 percent remain on the "conservative" side of the equation.
As we know, when Democratic voters turn out, we win. How are we going to turn them out? By running on our successes, and Obamacare is a big one. By the fall, all those people who are seeing the tangible benefits of the Affordable Care Act are going to know who is on their side and who is not. All those people who are able to receive contraceptive care without a co-pay, or who no longer worry about annual or lifetime caps on what their insurance will pay, or worry about losing their coverage if they lose their jobs, or those with pre-existing conditions, or those simply able to get health care who couldn't afford to do so before, are going to be able to see that Democrats got them health care, and Republicans want to take it away. Simple as that.
It's not wrong for Democrats to talk about wanting to fix flaws in the ACA. Doing so shows that they aren't rigid ideologues. But they should spend the overwhelming majority of their time contrasting their view to that of Republicans, whether they are talking about Obamacare or other key pocketbook issues like the minimum wage and the Paul Ryan budget (which Sen. Dick Durbin rightly called a "blueprint" for the Koch Brothers' dystopian vision for our society, and which Sen. Harry Reid referred to as the "Ryan-Koch budget").
Every Democratic candidate should campaign with Ronald Hudson at the front of their minds. You may remember Ronald Hudson from last fall. Kin to R.T. and Uncle Lenny Hudson, he's the gentleman from Breathitt County, Kentucky who, upon receiving the word from his Obamacare navigator that he was getting health insurance, replied: "Well, thank God. I believe I'm going to be a Democrat." Next fall, he could cast the ballot that puts Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Senate to replace Mitch McConnell.
How do we get folks like Hudson out to vote? Remind them that Democrats -- and only Democrats -- got them health coverage, and that Republicans want to repeal the law that gave it to them. Gratitude is a strong motivator. I'd wager that fear is at least an equally powerful one.
How many more R.T. Hudsons are out there?
The Urban Institute report in which this graph appears notes:
These early estimates understate the full effects of the Affordable Care Act on the uninsured for two major reasons. First, the survey does not capture the enrollment surge that occurred at the end of the open enrollment period, because 80 percent of the responses to the March 2014 HRMS were provided by March 6, 2014. Second, these estimates do not reflect the effects of some important ACA provisions (such as the ability to keep dependents on health plans until age 26 and early state Medicaid expansions) that were implemented before 2013.
The graph shows the real impact Obamacare is having on the uninsured rate, and shows how much more of an impact it could be having if not for the stubborn resistance of most red states to expanding Medicaid as provided for in the law.
A comprehensive analysis done by a Los Angeles Times reporter estimates that, with the open enrollment period now closed (other than a two-week extension for those who began their applications before March 31 but couldn't finish), nearly 10 million previously uninsured Americans now have insurance thanks to Obamacare. The same kinds of right-wing deniers who "unskewed" the polls in November 2012 and argued that Mitt Romney was definitely going to be our 45th president are out there denying the reality of these numbers. If you must, go ahead over to Breitbart and compare how they misuse and distort the same data that led the Los Angeles Times' Noam Levey to very different (i.e., reality-based) conclusions. Others, like Glenn Beck, are simply going nuts in response to Obamacare's success.
Republicans thought they were going to hang the Affordable Care Act around Democrats' necks like a millstone come November. Not gonna happen. But what Democrats have to do is not only sell the benefits of the new law, but make it 100 percent clear that the ultimate goal of Republicans is to repeal it, to throw it in the garbage.
We have to go on offense and hang "Repeal Obamacare" around their necks. We must make them run on taking away health insurance from what will be, a year from now, tens of millions of Americans. If they're smart, they'll be running away from repeal faster than you can say "former Senator Mitch McConnell."